South Africa

THE GATHERING ESSAY

The political will for a new political system: It’s time for South Africans to enjoy true personal liberty

The political will for a new political system: It’s time for South Africans to enjoy true personal liberty
The black squatter camp Kya Sands in Johannesburg, home to South Africans and many African immigrants. Across the road is Bloubusrand, a middle-class area with larger houses and swimming pools. South Africa has one of the highest income differences in the world and the country is struggling with a high unemployment rate and low growth rate. (Photo by Per-Anders Pettersson / Getty Images)

Build One South Africa (Bosa) proposes seven big ideas to embark on the journey of rebalancing our economy to more justly, equitably and efficiently distribute entrepreneurial opportunities and capital in SA.

South Africans spend a great deal of time discussing inequality and its injustice towards those left out of the economy. In fact, we spend so much time doing so that even our best economists do not pay sufficient attention to developing a clear picture of what an equal society should look like.

As a consequence of how little time we assign to developing cogent ideas geared towards building an equal society, South Africans have (often in the name of fighting inequality) fallen foul of John Locke’s injunction that: “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: …that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.” Locke alludes to the very essence of Ubuntu which Build One South Africa (Bosa) is championing. 

Over the past 28 years, we have managed to create a society that routinely harms one anothers’ lives, undermines the majority’s right to health, curtails many citizens’ liberty and puts almost all citizens’ possessions at risk. This is the case because the structure of economic life in our country produces only a few million citizens that pay tax, and over 18 million social grant recipients. Consequently, without social grants, our society would collapse.

While Bosa supports the retention of our current mix of social grants, we recognise that South Africa is a fiscally unsustainable society.

In the absence of innovative implementable ideas that can dramatically change South Africa’s current macro and microeconomic landscape, many of South Africa’s taxpayers will opt to leave the country in search of greener pastures.

Seven ideas

Bosa proposes seven big ideas to embark on the journey of rebalancing our economy to more justly, equitably and efficiently distribute entrepreneurial opportunities and capital in SA. 

These ideas are informed by the understanding that human ingenuity is evenly distributed in any society, while human dignity is unevenly protected in South Africa. 

The rebalancing of this equation will have massive implications for South Africa’s social cohesion and, by extension, its safety and security. 

We propose that a radically centrist stewardship of both government and the economy should focus on returning power of choice to citizens and assuring the standardisation of service delivery to all while building a skills-centric labour force. 

Our first big idea is to create a National Venture Capital Fund focused on Township Special Economic Zones. Investment into these SEZs will be funded by the sale of listed shares owned by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). The IDC’s investments are currently valued at R200-billion. Adequately leveraged, this capital can provide the jolt to the economy many South Africans have been pleading for. 

We believe that for entrepreneurs, the pathway from survivalist enterprise, or small start-up to established and growing business, needs to be financed by both public and private sector actors seeking returns in low-income and high-unemployment zones that do not need to comply with the full set of current tax and business regulations. 

Substantial tax rate reductions, eased exchange regulations and loosened labour market restrictions in SEZ will attract investment, job growth and economic activity that will increase the tax base while simultaneously reducing the grant recipients in South Africa. 

Our second big idea is to advocate the introduction of a school voucher programme that returns the power to decide which school a child goes to, back to the learner’s parents. Parents have the most vested interest in the long-term education of a child. Parents care enough to conduct sensible due diligence which will unearth key information related to the performance of neighbouring schools.

This voucher, estimated at R15,000 per annum (based on the current government cost to educate each child), should be awarded directly to parents who will be given a choice to use it for payment at a neighbouring public school, or to add some of their own capital to the voucher to take their children to a private or semi-private school.

If paired with a radically increased public infrastructure investment programme in public schools that attract more children as a result of the voucher system, bad schools will run out of business and must be abolished while good schools will be enlarged and recapitalised.

To make this innovation work, we need to dramatically increase public teacher salaries in exchange for performance management contracts that reduce the adverse incentive to protect incumbent teacher employment at all costs.

The teaching profession needs to become an attractive prospect for mid-career transitions for those wanting to share knowledge with South Africa’s future labour pool. Teacher bonuses need to be tied to improving South Africa’s education systems’ throughput rate.

Third, Bosa believes that to restore law and order in society, we must allow the formation of small, regional and municipal police forces working in conjunction with private security to set up control rooms that monitor the movement of criminals through facial and licence plate recognition software.

This will allow local governments the ability to contract with organisations such as Community Active Protection — that use artificial intelligence software to provide crime prevention — first responder, investigative and other law enforcement services, as well as private sector forensic entities to ensure the sanctity of evidence.

Fourth, we support and advocate for the further amendment of the Electoral Act to enable citizens to directly elect their public representatives at local, provincial and national level. 

The key to any good legislation in this regard is the enforcement of tools that allow the public to hold elected officials accountable through laws allowing their recall from public office.

This legislation must be accompanied by a more responsive, nimble public administration system. Wherever possible, the state and its services need to be digitised, especially record-keeping at all levels of government. 

We need to move into the digital age and utilise data modelling to support our law enforcement, education services and health services.

Fifth, we advocate for the dramatic increase of broadband, Wi-Fi and telecommunication access in all townships, rural and peri-urban towns, so that government can utilise telemedicine to put a doctor in every South African home.

Coupled with the upcoming introduction of a National Health Insurance system that obliges all houses to be covered by a healthcare plan, this initiative will dramatically reduce traffic to primary healthcare facilities, freeing up clinics and hospitals to focus on providing chronic and life-saving healthcare.

For those earning above a designated threshold, the National Health Insurance must be privately purchased. For those earning below the designated threshold, the bulk of the state’s current healthcare budget must be reallocated as coupons for individual households to purchase low-fee cover. Beyond this, the state must underwrite public healthcare cover for serious illnesses and accidents. 

Sixth, Bosa seeks to build a foreign policy framework that is guided by our national interests. We will drastically ramp up border security and introduce an income tax on legal foreign immigrants that is 10% higher than that of South Africans. 

These actions will enable us to remain a good SADC neighbour while enforcing a visa policy strictly dedicated to attracting scarce skills, while preventing the flow of criminally convicted immigrants into the country. 

Bosa will support the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) and make it work through cutting red tape, ensuring free movement of goods and services, eliminating trade barriers and domesticating protocols and regulations to align with domestic trade policies. 

The ACFTA provides the potential for $3.4-trillion in trade and 1.2 billion people in market access. If approached with the appropriate coordination with both medium size and big businesses, the ACFTA will be a major source of stimulus for our economy for many years to come. 

Seventh, Bosa believes that, alongside the looming restructure of Eskom into separate production, distribution and generation businesses, South Africa needs five 4,000MW to 5,000MW nuclear stations built over the next 10+ years.

We must find international technology available from power suppliers in America, Europe, China and Russia. Whichever nation wins a transparent nuclear power supply tender must do the capital raising themselves as a Build-Own-Operate project in exchange for 20-year off-take agreements. This will result in a zero-capital outlay scenario for SA taxpayers.

In addition, peri-urban towns or outlying districts must build small modular nuclear reactors retrofitted in old coal power stations as they reach maximum life expectancy. These two interventions will allow power production to match demand and support a growing economy.

Government should leave the supply of green energy entirely to the private sector. Green energy, via solar and wind, is not by itself a viable current option because storage technology is not advanced enough to ensure smooth transition from clean energy generation to 24-hour supply into the national power grid.

There is plenty of private sector funding capacity for green energy; the government should focus on properly regulating green energy suppliers, but must not spend any money sourcing its supply.

If implemented as part of a governing coalition or in a completely Bosa-controlled government, these proposals will allow a type of personal liberty not experienced by any living South African — a freedom marked by the absence of the necessity to lock our doors, hide our children and confront the daily realities of corruption.

This dream will only come true if citizens gain the nerve to assert their constitutional rights to own our democracy by holding their State Capturers to account at the ballot box. DM

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