Defend Truth


Quo Vadis South Africa – Dialogue amongst Equals


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

This past weekend saw a number of luminaries gather in the Drakensberg on invitation of the former president, Kgalema Motlanthe, through his Foundation. The purpose of the forum aptly named, “The Drakensberg Inclusive Growth Forum” was to begin a dialogue concerning the most pertinent matters faced by our country. The gathering was graced by the current president of the country, Cyril Ramaphosa, who in his keynote address, told the delegates that they must dream of a shared future in Mzansi.

He outlined that in his opinion we together needed to make a concerted effort towards such a dream, that our solutions must be evidenced based, that broad collaboration was going to be needed and that all these would only see the light of day if we engendered courage and ethical leadership.

Ramaphosa further pointed the delegates towards the recent World Bank Report, that spoke of South Africa as “An Incomplete Transition”. Herein, it speaks of,

  • Persistently high levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment
  • That large-scale job creation is required
  • That a post-apartheid social contract is needed

The president lamented that poverty was underscored by insufficient skills, skewed distribution of land, very low levels of competition in local markets and persistent spatial and climate change challenges.

Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana under the theme, “The South Africa we pray for”, spoke of the time when the Italians invaded Ethiopia and how they fought to undo the unwelcome forces with nefarious intentions.

In other words, those that seek to undermine all we have accomplished thus far must be stopped.

I’m certain this was perhaps, on the one hand, in reference to Jacob Zuma and his ilk and, on the other hand, monopoly capital that thinks only of the bottom line and not of the developmental objectives of the country.

He concluded with a cautionary note that we should strive to engender values, that translate into standards, which in turn will become policy.

Ivor Chipkin then continued with his theme being, “Betrayal of a Promise”, in which he spoke of the extraordinary turmoil that State Capture had created over such a short period. He told us that a simplistic analysis of State Capture suggested that a small group of people looking to take control of the state behaved corruptly.

Another, more concerning, narrative would be that, a negotiated constitution (which is viewed as flawed) and an equally flawed negotiated transition were the real impediments to radical economic transformation. And hence an impediment to the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

He suggested, among others, the establishment of a professional civil service.

As citizens, we need to ask the question, what can we expect from the state in a globalised world.

Next was Bonang Mohale, representing business and speaking on, the “Role of business and South African institutions”. He reminded business SA that it was sitting on billions of rand and not investing it into the local economy.

Policy certainty was required from the government.

Mohale said land dispossession of blacks should be viewed in the same light as the concentration camps for the Afrikaners during the South African War and the atrocities at Auschwitz during World War II.

Only then would there be a true appreciation of the pain felt by black South Africans.

Mcebisi Jonas spoke on the full extent and impact of State Capture under the theme, “Impact of State Capture: We are at our most Vulnerable”. The key point made here was that state capture really reinforced the contradictions in the political economy.

In other words, the structure of the economy had a direct bearing on the possibility of State Capture.

Jonas concluded by saying that the country required legitimate, ethical and exceptional leadership to avert this situation in future.

The next day started with the theme, “Rebuilding South Africa: Building our future together”.

The forum was presented with evidence by the former statistician-general, Pali Lehohla, of the extent of the various challenges in SA.

Youth participation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution imperatives wer also debunked by Professor Tshilidzi Marwala from the University of Johannesburg and a youthful Shaeera Kalla. respectively.

Delegates were then requested to break into working groups which tackled other contested issues such as land, jobs, youth, the role of media, strengthening the state and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

A number of key issues came out these discussions but two in particular are worth mentioning. The first is “Corruption of money and corruption of values” and the second the much neglected “Economic legacy of Apartheid”.

On the first issue, it was mentioned that far too often South Africans concerned themselves only with corruption of money, meaning making sure that the thieves involved in corrupt practices were identified, caught and brought to book. The corruption of values however, receives very little attention, meaning that the systemic underlying causes are not sufficiently investigated in order to avoid future corrupt practices.

The second issue, mentioned by Ben Turok, was that we as a people have concentrated much on the political rights and human rights features following the apartheid legacy but not sufficient attention has been given to the economic legacy of apartheid, which is now very much in the public domain through demands on land and attacks on monopoly capital in South Africa.

He said Gini-Coefficient of income was often looked at but not always the Gini-Coefficient of wealth. It is even more stark in South Africa, than in the rest of the world.

Turok indicated that the country was in a similar position to Europe after World War II where in certain countries they raised taxes to 80% in order to rebuild their economies.

We have a morality deficit and, as such, need to heal as a nation. Healing, it was felt, cannot happen if we do not acknowledge our various challenges in an honest and open manner.

The forum I thought was timely since society is experiencing many exclusions. Political exclusions that we see in the form of various protests around the country. Economic exclusions in the forms alluded to earlier in this article. Socio-cultural exclusions in sport, language, cultural practices and so much more.

Therefore, hosting an inclusive forum at this time was necessary and indeed required. It was felt that dialogue was another contribution to transformation and that the weekend was beginning to define what a “New Dawn” should contain.

We cannot talk of a New Dawn if we have not, in a meaningful way, addressed inclusion.

We still have much to discuss and analyse but this initiative was a good first step towards a social compact among ordinary South Africans.

The patron, Motlanthe, concluded the conference with the words of Martin Luther King Jr: “When you have experienced the sense of nobodyness, you will understand why we cannot wait”. DM


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