OPINION: Job creation won’t happen without true transformation


South Africa’s macro-economic policies are not responsive to improving growth and reducing unemployment. For the past 25 years of democracy, South Africa’s macroeconomic policies have not yet yielded desirable policy outcomes.

Therefore, pursuing the current version of radical socio-economic transformation policies and plans, with some glaring shortcomings, may not deliver required fundamental changes in the economic system, economic structure and economic institutions to effect sustainable growth and job creation.

From 1994 to date, most economic policies that were adopted left both the ideological superstructure and the economic sub-structure of South Africa intact. Thus, the radical socio-economic transformation may not result in intended public policy outcomes of inclusive economic growth and job creation to counter high unemployment, poverty and inequalities.

Inclusive economic growth means untangling of the enclave economy and de-concentrated economic growth that happens in spatial areas where poor people live, in places where poor people work, where they participate in the generation of economic activities and in poor communities where the means of production owned by the poor are used in the production of goods and services for the development of poor areas.

It should be acknowledged that inclusive economic growth should be redistributive of all national resources, income and benefits equitably to all the citizens, as an imperative of human rights, instead of denying the large section of the poor opportunities for the fulfilment of their human right to have meaningful standards of living.

Under such circumstances where the majority of poor people are excluded from the benefits of the mainstream economy, the state has to provide the means to ensure that all citizens enjoy the fruits of inclusive economic growth.

Unfortunately, these shortfalls of substantive transformation sometimes happen where blacks are the top management and leadership of those private and public institutions.

It could therefore be construed that there is no sincere commitment to transformation among some leaders with the legitimate mandate to accelerate transformation.

The core responsibility of substantive transformation is placed in the hands of black leadership to ensure its success and it cannot be expected to be done by white leadership.

After 25 years of democracy and freedom, it appears that decisive leadership in both the private and public sectors to expedite socio-economic transformation is in short supply.

The economy of our country is in an unfavourable state after 24 years of democracy and freedom, partly due to policy choices and decisions that the leadership made and continue to make to date – decisions that do not bring about the fundamental socio-economic changes that address the legitimate expectations of the majority of black South Africans.

This artificially created black elite is unable to influence white capital monopoly control of the economy, while some, who were elevated through tenderpreneurship deals to the status of being instant millionaires and billionaires, largely share the same interests and resources with white elites.

Our country cannot completely transform without deracialisation of her economy, to be inclusive in ownership, management and control of the commanding heights of our economy.

This may lead to the untangling of the economic ownership monopoly by the few rich elites and expedite required equitable economic redistribution and de-concentration of ownership, management and control of means of economic production from the monopolistic few rich white males who are said to occupy approximately 70% of management and control in the private sector, especially in the tertiary sector of the economy.

There is over-sensitivity to the myth that says economic transformation is the antithesis of economic growth. If transformation remains substantively unaddressed at our own peril, then the economy will not be able to absorb the battalions of unemployed black people for a long time.

It is a reckless error of the leadership to squarely entrust the responsibility of socio-economic transformation generally in the hands of white leadership who have never demonstrated interest to accelerate the pace of transformation without resistance, as it has been blocking transformation by parading excuses to preserve their privileges and monopoly of economic resources ownership.

If black leadership does not address transformation shortcomings, poverty, unemployment and inequalities will remain intact and a permanent feature of our society. Again, when the leadership fails with all power at its disposal, it cannot apportion blame to anyone except itself. Strategic objectives of radical socio-economic transformation may be achieved provided there are properly designed socio-economic development programmes that are executed the government, business and civil society structures.

These programmes should be managed efficiently by capable radicals with a credible record of programme management credentials. This brings us to the point that says radicals cannot abdicate their responsibility to the liberals without a legitimate mandate to lead and steer substantive transformation to the benefit of the poor citizens.

The forces of radical socio-economic transformation have to effect change of the social order and economic structural arrangements focusing on the fundamental change of the economic system, structures, policies, laws and socio-economic power relations among its citizens. Radical socio-economic transformation is about mainstreaming, empowerment and participation of the poor people in strategic management areas of economic affairs for the country to become substantively united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist, human rights sensitive and socially cohesive, in line with constitutional imperatives.

It is also a matter of commitment to normalisation of economic political economy and concomitant skewed economic power relations. Those with economic power should be prepared to partly relinquish and decentralise some of it to the economically powerless blacks, who should also exercise power of economic decision making in their respective spaces and in critical areas of governance.

Racial discrimination and racist incidents, largely prevalent in the private sector and directed at the vulnerable blacks who sometimes tolerate the dehumanising conduct of racists, are not justifiable. This situation has to change through the acceleration of socio-economic transformation.

Failure to transform the economy is equivalent to betrayal of the hope and collective trust of the vulnerable black masses, while the success of transformations will partly facilitate public participation in the economic governance and policy decision- making process.

Mahlangu is an independent governance and public policy analyst, and a member of council at the Vaal University of Technology. He writes in his personal capacity.


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