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The ‘Make South Africa Work Again’ Manifesto

Opinionista • Paul Hoffman • 19 August 2019 • DailyMaverick

We need a broad consensus on what needs to be done to rescue the country from failure as a modern state. Accountability Now offers a draft Manifesto to make South Africa Work Again.

The number one concern of most adult people living in South Africa today is to have and keep a job. Far too many, especially among the young, do not have any job at all. Far too many graduates and matriculants do not have any economically useful skills and are unemployable as a result. Far too many school-leavers are fit for no work of the kind available in today’s economy apart from scarce unskilled and semi-skilled jobs.

Far too many possible investors, the real job creators for South Africans, are put off by a variety of factors currently looming large over the economy of South Africa: will revolutionary populism destroy the viability of the country; will expropriation without compensation make investment in South Africa a very bad bet; will the lights stay on; will the banking system survive Ace; will infrastructure be available; will the rule of law hold; will the labour laws stymie investment; will South Africa avoid an IMF bailout; will any possible bailout be good or bad for investment; will “junk status” come – ruinously so; will factionalism in the ANC prove fatal to the country etcetera, etcetera.

South Africans are very adept at talking about their lot. The job summits, investment indabas, commissions of inquiry, electoral puffery and endless speeches have not prevented the shrinking of job opportunities, the plummeting value of the rand and the waning level of confidence business has in the future of South Africa.

What is needed is a broad consensus on what needs to be done to rescue the country from failure as a modern state. In an effort to help crystalise that consensus, Accountability Now offers a draft Manifesto to make South Africa Work Again. The draft is not cast in stone; it needs to be developed and to carry the approval of most people and most political parties if it is to succeed. Here are the first 10 and most obvious points for the Manifesto, there are, no doubt, many more and the work of fashioning them all into a coherent whole is yet to be done.

  1. Let’s cherish our Constitution as our supreme law and let’s uphold the rule of law in the manner required by the Constitution. Wholeheartedly embracing the “Ubuntu and batho pele” values of the Constitution by giving the human rights it guarantees the required respect and protection will go a long way toward treating all with dignity, promoting the achievement of equality and creating the non-racial non-sexist future posited in the Constitution. Access to proper healthcare and adequate housing are guaranteed to all in the Bill of Rights. It is high time that delivery of these and other services takes place.

Let’s get serious about implementing the National Development Plan. This national blueprint to take us to 2030, now only 11 years away, carries the support of all major political players, but its actual implementation has been slow to happen. For example, the NDP calls for the demilitarisation of the police. So did the Farlam Commission into the shooting of 34 miners at Marikana seven years ago. Nothing has been done to take this simple step. The minister is unresponsive and so is the parliamentary police portfolio committee. It is meant to exercise oversight over the minister.

Let’s establish an Integrity Commission under Chapter Nine of the Constitution to bring to book those responsible for state capture, grand corruption and kleptocracy. The criminal justice administration has to be resourced and empowered to do its work in the way the Constitution demands, without fear, favour or prejudice, diligently and without delay. The culture of impunity abroad in the land must end, the loot of State Capture must be raked back and those guilty of crimes against the poor and the state must be fitted with orange overalls after fair trials conducted before impartial courts. A Chapter Nine Integrity Commission specialising in the investigation and prosecution of grand corruption to supplement the work of the Hawks and NPA is urgently needed; as is raking back many billions of loot.

Let’s collectively abandon the National Democratic Revolution which has done so little to improve the lot of the poor for a quarter of a century in power and for nearly a century before the ANC-led Alliance began to govern in South Africa. The NDR values are outmoded, impractical, unimplementable (after 25 years) and inconsistent with the values of the Constitution. The NDR scares off new investment, corrupts its cadres and thwarts progress that is sustainable, peace that is secure and prosperity that is shared. Professor Kader Asmal was right, scrapping the NDR is overdue.

Let’s introduce merit-based selection as the universal standard for South Africa. No more race-based affirmative action and BEE measures, they haven’t worked in 20 years other than to the advantage of the politically connected. They should go; their constitutional purpose is better served by allowing disadvantage, not race, to be the criterion for useful affirmative measures of the kind that the Bill of Rights requires.

Let’s adapt the labour law dispensation so that first-time employees are subjected to a system in which mentorships, coaching and training are available to them (with tax breaks to enable employers) but in which their services can be terminated unilaterally without reference to the unfair labour practice dispensation in place during the first five years of their employment. This will make nervous investors more willing to create labour-intensive factories and industries without the fear of being stuck permanently with unsuitable employees.

Revise the education system – it is long overdue that a more goal-directed and relevant system be put in place. More resources applied in early childhood development, a relevant curriculum at schools and tertiary level offering courses and classes that are attractive to potential employers in the job market as it exists. These steps will all go a long way toward righting the ship of state in the longer term. Teachers on task in classrooms that are equipped with learning and teaching materials in the correct language and quantity will work wonders. It is the right way to go.

Send the public service and state-owned enterprise employees to boot camp. There are too many passengers in these sectors, illegally and unconstitutionally deployed cadres swinging the lead and clogging efficient, effective and economic service delivery. The purpose of the boot camps will be to weed out, via the criteria of Section 195(1)(h) of the Constitution those not equal to or even qualified for the tasks assigned them. It will be unpopular with the lead-swingers but it will save the taxpayer a great deal of money and it will, in the final analysis, be necessary.

Get serious about moral regeneration. Now that Jacob Zuma is out of the system and no longer available to pollute it from within, revive the moral regeneration movement by teaching the young, and the not so young, active citizenship through inculcating knowledge of the Constitution and the use of the Chapter 9 Institutions with participation in democracy, not violent protests. These measures will foster the development of the unity in diversity of the nation that was foreshadowed in the Preamble to the Constitution. Strong institutions of state, servant leadership and ethical governance are currently in short supply. They need not be as we have good people available for implementing regeneration.

10. End xenophobia. Fostering good relations with our fellow Africans and our neighbouring countries ought to be the natural default position of all South Africans. At present, partly due to the isolation of our past and partly because of current scarcity of jobs as well as access to resources, xenophobic tendencies are rife. They shouldn’t be, certainly not in an embedded culture of human rights. Tolerance and acceptance are drivers of economic growth in any country. DM

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