The looting and burning of the last week was anarchy, from the ancient Greek an (no) archos (leader). SA had no leader. Ordinary people had to intervene to prevent the riots from expanding further. Ordinary people intervened to clean up.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has been arguing with his own cabinet about what happened. As Tony Leon has written, public trust has gone. The contract between the people and the state has broken: the contract that we obey the state, which has the sole prerogative to use force, and in return the state protects us.  The rioters did not obey; the state did not protect.

We should take note that the looters were not protesting about too many white farmers, or too many whites on the boards of companies. The ANC would have it that these are the burning concerns of the people. They are not. As has been argued thousands of times in the public arena, their real concerns are ineffective education leading to lifelong unemployment and, worst of all, lack of hope.

If these are our challenges, what should the ANC and  government do? More of the same; more draconian imposition of BEE and race quotas? More state regulation of business? Expropriation that amounts to confiscation?

No. We must try a different approach. Admit that the ANC’s concerns are not shared by the people. Admit that the people don’t care what colour their teacher or employer is. They want good education. Period. They want a job. Period. The uproar and looting of the last week demonstrates this clearly.

The ANC is not just out of touch with the people, its policies oppose their interests and destroy their hopes. We — inside and outside the ANC — should try to shift the governing party towards scrapping race engineering and attempts (inevitably futile) to run state companies. Scrap BEE (which just enriches the ANC elite) and privatise as far as practicable. No state — least of all ours — should  be running businesses.

This would be torture for the  ideologues in the ANC, who are addicted to their destructive ideology. But let us learn from the narrowly averted total anarchy, let us understand what the poor really want, and let us suspend the ANC’s ideological dreams, at least until the economy has doubled in size.

If the governing party stopped forcing its ideology down our throats our economy would surge and we could expect it to double in size in 15 years. If this happens, we can always return to this ideology,  off a much bigger base. But by then we should all be happy not to.

Willem Cronje
Cape Town

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