LETTER: Where are SA’s vital milestones?
The ANC is unwilling or unable to learn from history
President Cyril Ramaphosa shared an appealing Easter message on Good Friday. We should all work together in tolerance and acceptance. That is indeed what we must do. It is encapsulated in the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
In a different context, on Human Rights Day on March 21 Ramaphosa spelt out the aspirations of the governing party: create a better society than the one we came from in 1994. The ANC has often fleshed out this dream: good education; good healthcare; full (or at least high) employment. This is motherhood and apple pie: great for those who have it, but how do we get there? Ordinary mortals — but not, apparently, the ANC — feel constrained to provide some measurable parameters, milestones on the road to happiness. Parameters like the size of the economy and the building of a skills base. Where are our milestones?
I suggest we take stock of our relative global position. In purchasing power parity dollars our national income per capita is $12,500 — about the global average. By comparison, this parameter for Zimbabwe is $3,000. The 37 countries (essentially the rich democracies) in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average $45,000, almost four times our per capita income. It should be noted that our relative position globally is, and has long been, deteriorating.
Nothing to be proud of, but where should we be? The ANC never says. It just wants life to get “better”. A noble aspiration, but we need to put some steel in our resolve. Let’s resolve, say, that by 2050 we be midway towards the OECD average, that our per capita income will be half theirs, from a quarter today. Then maybe we can aspire for parity by the end of the century. Why must we always be behind the best?
These milestones are not merely posturing. They require an analysis of successes and failures in other countries, and long-term policy decisions to employ the right lessons. For instance, in Zimbabwe, skilled minorities (essentially whites) have fallen in number over the last 50 years from just under 300,000 to perhaps less than 30,000 today, and their land was redistributed.
In terms of the ANC world view this should have produced the goods — and the good life. Not so. Zimbabwe is close to a failed state, and four times poorer than us. It does not seem that whites hogging the wealth is the cause of black poverty. Quite the reverse, or the 90% decline in the white population in Zimbabwe would have brought untold wealth to the majority. Nor has taking back the land created wealth and happiness in Zimbabwe.
But the ANC is unwilling or unable to learn from history. Early in his term, former president Thabo Mbeki did express concern about the efflux of white skills. Nothing much since. Despite the National Development Plan pointing out that whites and other minorities have deep reserves of human and social capital (which we need to utilise to grow), the governing party seems either unaware or unconcerned that the white element is the only ethnic group that has not, since union in 1910, kept pace with general population growth.
In fact, whites have fallen in absolute numbers from their peak some 50 years ago — albeit only by about 10%, nothing like the decline in Zimbabwe. But this may not last with the triumphalist faut revolutionary rhetoric of the governing party and its steady undermining of property rights.
The ANC seems stuck in 1850, when Karl Marx was expounding the evils of 19th century capitalism and land was the route to wealth. How many of today’s innovative billionaires owe their fortunes to land? None. It’s all due to their deep reserves of human and social capital. The ANC needs to enter the 21st century.
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