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Of all the economic problems that SA has, from unemployment to the crisis at state-owned enterprises, one important element gets overlooked. That’s the basic lack of trust between the social partners, which at times makes that term sound redundant. This should not come as a surprise to anyone with even a basic understanding of SA’s history and the legacy of poverty and inequality. The message that we are somehow “all in this together” is a hard sell when “all” includes dollar billionaires, workers on poverty wages and an army of the unemployed. But somehow that gulf has to be breached if the country is going to move forward.

It’s important to note as well that it wasn’t always like this. The early days of democracy were characterised by a significant amount of goodwill, which was embodied in the formation of the National Economic Development and Labour Council, where the government, business, labour and community organisations were supposed to get together and find solutions t...

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