Press "Enter" to skip to content

Economic freedom without education and big business?

It was interesting to note at a recent seminar on ‘Economic Freedom in Our Lifetime’ organised by the Xubera Institute for Research and Development, that out of all the panellists, only one mentioned the importance of education in attaining economic freedom. The panellists included an economist, an academic, a journalist/political analyst and a Provincial MEC.

While we must live with the fact that a majority of South Africans are not highly educated and that they still have a role to play in the economy, we cannot overlook the fact that very few people are gifted enough to be able to participate fully in the economy with little or no education.

Education remains the most important factor in the fight for meaningful transformation and economic freedom. Without education who will be able to take advantage of the equal economic opportunities that we are demanding from the White Inc ?

Credit must be given to ANCYL for bringing the issue of economic transformation to the forefront of the national agenda. Their argument is flawed though, in that they are not asking the youth to go back to school and arm themselves for the opportunities that will come with the nationalisation they are calling for. In fact, I haven’t heard the ANCYL articulating exactly how the youth will benefit.

At the Xubera seminar, I was also disappointed that no one from among the panellists was representing big business. Big business is part of the White Inc and one of the biggest obstacles to economic transformation.

Everyone seems to be only focusing on how government is failing to create jobs and transforming the economy. What government is failing to do is create the right climate for this to happen by legislating and regulating. The bigger problem is the fight by the White Inc against transformation and their efforts at maintaining white privilege and wealth.

I wrote previously about the unholy and corrupt marriage between the White Inc and some in government. This only serves to create a few ultra rich black individuals linked to the ruling elite who hardly do anything to create jobs or grow the economy while they help ease pressure on the White Inc to transform. This is not sustainable and only buys them time.

I have heard some in the White Inc accusing blacks of not wanting to work the land etc. hence they shouldn’t be given the land. Bull, I say! Black people used to live on the land until the land act of 1930 stripped them of the land in order to make them dependent on the mining sector. This created, overnight, a bottomless pit of cheap labour for the White Inc and made sure that black people were dependent on capitalist interests forever. Government and White Inc have a duty then to couple land reform with the skilling of the beneficiaries.

It is time now to stop repeatedly talking about problems that we all know are there and doing endless analysis. It’s time to stop with “the position papers, white papers, green papers and pink papers”, as Allister Sparks put it. We now need to start doing what we can to bring about meaningful economic transformation that will not disrupt economic growth.

It starts with turning education around, even if it is done one school at the time. It starts with growing capacity in FETs so they can be used productively to skill the millions of unemployed youth. Our education is crumbling but no one seems to be in panic mode! Black schools in the townships and rural areas haven’t seen any change in the new democratic dispensation. Teachers and their union SADTU are a huge part of the problem in black schools and this needs to change. Parents need to get involved in their children’s education.

The White Inc needs to admit that black people were denied the right to participate in the economy for a very long time and that their white counterparts are way ahead of them. In order for redress to happen, some sort of advantage needs to be given to black people so they can catch up. BEE seems to be only working for the White Inc and a few blacks linked to the ruling elite.

Continuous denial that race needs to play a role in effecting economic transformation will lead to a revolt. That revolt will not only be against government but also against the White Inc as black people feel that they are being economically suppressed by both government and the White Inc. If there is to be a Tunisia in South Africa, we all lose.


  • Despite his full-time duty of being a father to two girls and one boy, Nco Dube spends ample time fulfilling his passion for reading and writing. He is not a journalist but he writes from the heart, from an ordinary "man on the street's" perspective. His views are shaped by what's in the public domain and his analysis informed by his extensive reading and interaction with other ordinary South Africans from all walks of life. Dube is a marketer by profession who runs an experiential marketing company and is also a freelance events producer. He went to Catholic schools including St Francis College in Marriannhill and studied at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Unisa. You can follow him on twitter: @ncodube and on Facebook: Nco Dube


  1. "Oh no!!" "Oh no!!" 11 January 2012

    “White Inc”? Do you still after 17 years of freedom still se everything in this country as black and white? I bet you your skin is not coal black, but rather a darkish brown, same as the “white” guy with a rather lightish brown skin. Get off your high racist horse. Do not fall into the same trap as the reverend Kemo Waters and his buddies in the AWB. With regard to education, I think the ANC is deliberately not giving any attention to schools in the “townships”, to keep the proletariat uneducated. Then the proletariat can be told any stories about how bad and racist “White Inc” are. Makes you want to drink, doesn’t it?

  2. shaun shaun 11 January 2012

    Oh No!! is spot on. Mr dube it is time you ask the government why it is failing its citizens. this White Inc as you call it exists because white people know and appreciate the importance of education. Education creates opportunities, opportunities create wealth anf wealth creates security.

    The government has ailed its citizens and as oh no!! states, it is quite happy to keep the masses uneducated and therefore easily manipulatable.

    You need to start addressing the cause, not the symptoms. Replacing white Inc with an uneducated Black Inc will lead to nothing but massive job losses and poverty. But you know that…

  3. Mr Yellow Mr Yellow 11 January 2012

    Real “Economic Freedom” is tough, gritty and ugly. What the ANCYL really want is “Economic Comfort”. The street vendor you pass at the robots on your way to work is much more free then most gainfully employed South Africans. He chooses every last bit of his/her economic participation. Unlike I who sits in a comfortable office but have little power in what the company I work for does. We are all free to pursue any legal economic pursuit we want to in South Africa, that is true “Economic Freedom”.

  4. Graham Graham 11 January 2012

    Hi Nco

    I think you give too much credit to this “White Inc” – big business is certainly not part of this inc.

    I am in the accounting profession, and currently looking for a permanent job. Every job I have applied for at an established firm has not even shortlisted me because of the colour of my skin. Not complaining about that, given the economic climate. But it is a very naive comment on your part to say that big business is part of “White Inc”, and that it is fighting transformation.

    May I ask you again – You state that not all whites are part of “White Inc”, and that some black people form part of “White Inc”. Therefore if this “inc” is not racially defined, why give it a racially defined name?

  5. steve steve 11 January 2012

    Although I do not agree with all you say , as a white employer I can certainly work on and with you to adress the problems we have to face in this country.

  6. Rich Brauer Rich Brauer 11 January 2012

    You’re making excellent points about the importance of education.

    I’d love to see JZ making really high profile speeches on it. Not, for the love of all things holy, anything like his usual scripted stuff.

    But talking about himself, for instance: About his regrets about not having more formal education, ideally including good anecdotes about times when that hampered him. About the “university” on Robben Island and how important that was to him personally and to other prisoners there.

    I’d love to see a consistent, coherent campaign with a simple message: The best thing you can do, as a parent for the good of your children, and as an SA citizen, for the good of the nation, is make education the number one priority for your children, and for yourself.

  7. Graham Johnson Graham Johnson 11 January 2012

    Best drivel I have read for a while. Same old ‘we can do it’ mentality without a shred of proof that they can. Witness Zambia, Zimbabwe, fallow government land, Transkai, Ciskei, repossessed land. All under black control and now all are food importing areas.

    Education, yes. But how many generations can you wait?

  8. Lesetja Lesetja 11 January 2012

    Pls dont sing me that old worn-out song about education. I am a graduate without a job. What we mean by economic freedom is not for us to go work for the white man, stupid! We want to own the land, OUR land, so that we can employ ourselves. Dont you get it?

  9. Graham Johnson Graham Johnson 11 January 2012

    Let me illustrate the education dilema more graphically. The maths challenge is immense. The following are official figures.

    In 1994 approximately 1,500,000 learners enrolled for schooling
    In 2004 Std 10 class there were 1,057,935 – 30% had dropped out
    In 2006 Std 12 class there were 528,525 – 65% had dropped out
    Out of black pupils passing matric, there were approximately 700 C+ HG math passes out of total matric pass of 351,726. This is 0.19%
    (Note 700 passed C+ out of 9,000 total passes).
    Out of black pupils taking matric, the 700 C+ HG math passes out of total matric (Std 12) class of 528,525 comes to 0.13%
    Out of black pupils enrolling for schooling in 1994, the approximately 700 C+ HG math passes out of total enrolled for schooling comes to 0.05%

    In 2007, from all of our black learners, only 0.05% formed the basis for our skilled economy. To be accountants, doctors, managers, engineers, architects, skilled artisans, etc.
    If we assume that in 2011 it was twice as good, that is still only 0.1%.

    We have a very long way to go.

    This is a very serious challenge.

  10. Israel Matjila Israel Matjila 11 January 2012

    What do you mean when you talk of “Economic Freedom”, Do you mean that people will be able to buy whatever they want? Do you mean ownership of whatever resources close to people? My little education suggest that the Economic Freedom meant in a South African context is power to gather funds at the end of the financial year.

    Ownership of resources should be done through systems used in other countries that successfully implemented ownership strategies for its citizens even if they have little knowledge. Companies that invest in south Africa should only be allowed to do so if they include a South African Citizen and this should be monitored to a number of two businesses per citizen. Colour should not matter.

    No person should be allowed to buy land and/or become a citizen if he or she was not born out of South Africans. The Economic Freedom that is always sung, is forever slipping from the hands of the relevant people because of expatriates who come and make it impossible for ordinary South Africans to learn and engage in formal business. Our freedoms lie in our way of thinking, and if we do not think out of the colonialist box, the economic freedom will remain a pipe dream. Let opportunities exist first for South Africans and then any other person out there. South Africa has enriched irrelevant people and now is the time for the reversal of fortunes through strategies that stiffles progress for non Citizens eccept working for or under a South African.Educated or not.

  11. Judith Judith 11 January 2012

    Education and skills opportunities are essential – we need teachers’ training colleges, apprenticeships and nursing colleges back urgently! SMEs need proper startup funding and support, as only entrepreneurs can make the difference.

    South Africans are very good at running SMEs and growing them. Big business is dying and under threat deservedly so

  12. Small business Small business 11 January 2012

    “At the Xubera seminar, I was also disappointed that no one from among the panellists was representing big business.” I am not too sure what big business is. Transet? Denel? Eskom? The biggest business in SA is the state – and probably one of the greatest sources of poor business practices. Most state business depends on small and other businesses to work to pay tax that the state can spend. The biggest problem in SA is that there is too much state spending and not enough real business – of any kind, big or small. Forget the racial generalisations. Focus on the real problems.

  13. Anton Anton 11 January 2012

    Terms like “White Inc” and “economic freedom” have no meaning to me. I don’t know how to deal with them and have no idea what they are supposed to convey. It is very much the same as listening to a madman rambling on about persecutiuon. The words make sense but the meaning eascapes me. Sorry about that.

    I spend my days competing in a global economy and have a hard time cionvincing my clients to stay with me. Similarly, I am white but do not expect and do not receive any preferential treatment from my feloow whites. Believe me, if they can get a better deal from a balck person, they go for it!

    Graham Johnson posts some pretty depressing stats in this comments section on the pass rates for black Safricans for maths. These numbers have not budged in the last twenty years. If those numbers do not dramatically change, we will still be sitting around twenty years from ow and nothing will have changed. Sadly, this is the most likely scenario.

    “White Inc” at that point will be a forlorn, old and depleted section of the population. “White Inc” is in a state of gentle but permanent decline. Soon it will be no more than 5% of the population. Fior God;s sake Nco, wake up!

  14. Richard Becker Richard Becker 12 January 2012

    The Public Investment Corporatio manages about R1-trillion in South African state pensions, mostly invested in the JSE. This makes them a huge player in large business in SA with the ability to call the shots in many instances. This makes the very idea of ‘White Inc.’ nothing more than the figment of an overactive imagination. To successfully rise to the upper ranks of big business requires a tertiary education with good mathematical skills and years of tough experience. This is why the top positions are usually held by people with qualifications in accounting or engineering and has nothing to do with the colour of their skin. Let’s move on people.

  15. brian b brian b 12 January 2012

    Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty

    – Frank Herbert

  16. HD HD 12 January 2012

    Although I agree with the overall premise that we need better education in order to ensure people can fill semi-skilled and skilled jobs, especially along the lines Judith suggest, it is not the long-term solution.

    Education doesn’t lead to economic growth – economic growth leads to education.

    Unless we create an economy that has space for all these skilled jobs, there is no point in turning out thousands of engineers, doctors and scientists. These higher skilled jobs are all sustained by lower skilled jobs that need to be filled first in order to grow the economy big enough to support the more advanced industries on a bigger scale.

    Of course currently our education system is so bad that we cannot even fill the small skilled vacancies in many industries, especially giving our crippling labour and equity regulations. If the government really cared about jobs and education it would get out of the labour market, free up the economy and make it as easy as possible for people to start businesses and run it legally (not all business are necessarily reliant on education – look at the informal sector).

    Part of the frustration in Egypt was that it churned out many graduates but they could not find work because the economy did not support those skills. (In here it is also better to study for a diploma in electrical engineering than a graduate degree in drama or puppetry like many of the OWS crowd)

  17. peter peter 12 January 2012

    More mundane rhetoric about what? We do not know what democracy means and there is no such thing as “economic freedom”. When we even presume that life owes us, then so-called democracy and economic freedom are just demands which we fabricate in our own minds as a substitute for honest endeavour and creativity. The time is fast approaching,if not already here, that we need to understand that no one owes anyone anything anymore, we are all in the boiling pot together and the fittest will survive with or without assistance. Maybe and just hopefully we will all perish and leave this planet better off. It seems to me that those most well educated have messed up the most so it begs the question; what are we teaching and is our so-called education agenda correct?

  18. Graham Johnson Graham Johnson 12 January 2012


    Do you realise that, assuming maths education for the last fifty years has been as good as maths education for the last five years, we only have about 34,000 out of the 40,000,000 of the African population who achieved a C grade or better in HG maths? This is not ‘racial generalisation’, it’s realpolitik.

    What ignorant politician said we don’t have a skills shortage? It’s frightening that: a) they don’t recognise it; and b) they’re doing practically nothing about it.

  19. Chris2.0 Chris2.0 12 January 2012

    @Lesetja – Interesting – a graduate that wants to be a farmer? As I take it that is why you “want to own the land, OUR land, so that we can employ ourselves.”

    Have you checked the life expectancy of farmers in SA lately?

    “What we mean by economic freedom is not for us to go work for the white man, stupid!” So you’d rather work for government? As that’s the only alternative if you don’t want to work for a whitey inc…

    No, sorry, I “don’t get it?”

    “Pls dont sing me that old worn-out song about education.” Which one – Liberation before Education?

    And I’m not “a graduate”, but not “without a job” – maybe because I started working at the bottom of a technical field that requires mathematics and science in 1995…? Even benefiting from BEE, because all the other technicians and engineers have left/are leaving SA? So my salary increased every year, even getting a scarcity allowance for a few years running!

    But I’m still hoping for better in SA – even after having to leave most beautiful country in the world after being told I’m too white to be employed there?

    And here’s also hoping that change will happen at the ballot box in 2014, and not in an Angry African Spring uprising.

    Stop voting for the corrupt and thieving Black INC – only then the economic transformation will happen what you all are dreaming of!

  20. MLH MLH 12 January 2012

    Until this blogger or the TL editor defines and lists ‘White Inc’, I think all Nco’s blogs should be held back. Accusing a group which no reader can define is sheer trouble making. I’d be obliged if M&G would attend to this.

  21. Peter Joffe Peter Joffe 12 January 2012

    Malema’s recent and may I say stupid march for economic freedom was a waste of energy and time. The economic freedom that Ju JU wants is already there.
    You cannot take from those who have and give it to those who have not because you will just make everyone poor.
    The march should have been for a good education for all but the ANC wants to create “equally bad” education system for all by removing good Model C Schools and replacing them with bad. Jobs created by the government are mostly in the public ‘service’ sector so they do not translate into economic growth, they actually deprive the country of other vital services.
    A good education is the foundation to build the future on but the ANC is too busy looting to worry about that.
    The White Inc, can only be put back by beating them at their own game because, as is the case with the country you can hand over a working machine to the ANC and they are proceed to destroy all that worked.
    Take from White Inc and give it to Black Inc and the results are for all to see, chaos and destruction.
    White Inc wants to work with Black Inc but sadly Black Inc ‘deserve and demand’ and cannot pull their weight and work is not what they can do.
    If White Inc plays Black Ink on the soccer field but White ink are not allowed a goalie and only 5 men, would Black Inc be proud of winning the game??
    Wake up Black Ink and realize that the market is there but it will never be attained until you realize that toil brings fruit not marches and toyi…

  22. jandr0 jandr0 12 January 2012

    economic freedom: “Freedom to engage in economic transactions, without government interference but with government support of the institutions necessary for that freedom, including rule of law, sound money, and open markets.”

    Deardorffs’ Glossary of International Economics.

  23. benzo benzo 12 January 2012

    “Economic freedom without education and big business?”
    In a world of limited resources and limiting rules or legislation, economic freedom does not exist. It is merely a nice topic for a march or any other public event where the uneducated can be made to feel good about themselves or more frustrated about their current status in life.
    The big men on stage show off their “achievements” and make the people believe that they can also be as “well do do” without telling precisely how to get there.

    Free education is all around us if one cares to look and listen and ask. It requires a goal, dedication and perseverence. Many people get where they wanted to be without University or even Matric.

    But: “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”

  24. chantelle chantelle 13 January 2012

    Like you, Nco, I’d also like to know what the ANCYL is going to do after nationalization to improve the lives of the poor. In essence I agree that it is wrong for a small group to harvest all the riches from our earth, and the rest do not even have food to eat, but I’d like to see a plan of action first, before I can add my voice for or against it. However, it does not seems as if ANCYL wants to share their plans. The same goes for land redistribution. Taking a farm from a white farmer and giving it to a black farmer does not help the poor, white or black. Taking land from a white farmer and deviding it eg between 1000 poor black people also will not help. Where will they live? What about water? Toilets? Jobs? Schools? Transport? Asking people like Lesetja these kind of questions also does not help. They only know that they want the land. After that they cannot answer.

  25. Israel Matjila Israel Matjila 13 January 2012

    It is too easy to make conclusions on the innabilty of others to deliver and participate startegically in the growth of the country’s economy. Whether one is educated or not, if given a position of responsibilty, that person with relevant workforce will deliver.

    There is a general stigma attached by most selfish people when it comes to confidence on the leadership. Moreover when such a leader is of a darker colour. Educated or not, it will first be presumed that the leader cannot deliver. People tend to forget that there are proffessionals who are hired to assist the same leader in preparing documents and presentations. Some of the same most thought of “better thinking races”.

    It should always be kept in mind that general startegies in enhancing the better lives for all in South Africa must take a concerted effort, all races should participate. All suggestions should be tabled and solutions probed and implemented. We are willing to do that as south Africans but need cooperation from all who live here.

  26. benzo benzo 13 January 2012

    @Israel….”There is a general stigma attached by most selfish people when it comes to confidence on the leadership. Moreover when such a leader is of a darker colour.”

    Your reference to “a general stigma” is not a SA phenomenon. Under the name “prejudice” it is and was for ages in existence and not just by “selfish” people. Name any nationality and ask members of the neigbouring nationality to describe them.

    Some people bring in language, culture, religion, area of birth or domicile… you name it. SA has chosen skin colour to prejudice a person. The majority of people will survive the prejudices, standing tall and they deliver what they promised to deliver.

    “..confidence in the leadership…???” See the results and judge for yourself without thinking colour.

  27. jack sparrow jack sparrow 14 January 2012

    Nco, why do continue to repeat a lie? The education you rabbit on about should start with you. Whites DO NOT CONTROL SA OR BUSINESS IN SA. The ANC government and ANC run organisations are by far the biggest stakeholders in the SA economy, Try and read and understand what Richard Becker above is saying. I say that the PIC is THE biggest investor is SA Inc and it’s controlled by the ANC. I dare you to even try and prove me wrong. Try and read and undertsand what a public, listed company is and who the shareholders are. That’s if you can, or if you want to. Or are you just another little clone of Julius Malema, Goebbels, Vorster, Pol Pot etc who spouts rhetorical lies, over and over to try and get them passed off as the truth?. All you have is the race card, nothing else.

  28. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 15 January 2012

    You raise some valid points. It is especially true that White Inc is extremely happy with BEE because this protects the status quo. It is also very true that black farmers are more than capable to farm, but it is not true that White Inc wants to prevent this.

    Many of the repossessed farms were handed over to black owners, who sold it back to white owners or who rented it to white owners. No problem there. The problem comes in with government owned farms, where government does not sign over land ownership to black farmers but wants to monitor and breathe down their necks. This creates a situation whereby black farmers can lose their land at any given time at the whim of an irate minister – hardly the situation conductive to very capable black farmers who have to think about farming in the long term.

    It’s also not true that the ANCYL deserves credit: They don’t raise issues that were unknown to anyone, they merely ride the populist ticket on the back of these issues.

  29. Arnie Arnie 15 January 2012

    Unfortunately some people will never get rid of their inferiority complex. Their small world will never change if they keep on separating us into white inc. and black inc.

    Getting an education is not alone going to solve problems – becoming an entrepreneur is the solution. For being an entrepreneur, you need to have self-confidence – not education. if you keep on referring to white inc and black inc. you are only displaying to us that you have no self confidence and hatred will just keep dragging you down.

  30. Amused Reader Amused Reader 16 January 2012

    Big business is far more colour-blind than you give it credit …..

    … which makes you only half right.

    Sadly there is far too much focus or forcing businesses to accept under qualified, or inferior applicants on the basis of their race / gender, and far too little effort spend on educating and training those same applicants so that big buiness will be fighting to acquire their services.

    Our education system is in a chronic mess, and the current backslapping and self congratulations following the recent matric results is plain scary.

    I cannot agree more that we need to weed out under-performing treachers,sideline the incredibly desructive union, and start turning around schools as fast as humanly possible.

  31. Paddy Paddy 16 January 2012

    “White Inc” – This is simply a conspiracy theory – like many people blame the “Illuminati” for their lack of success. SADTU is more effective in ensuring the terrible numbers of competent students coming from township schools.

    But hey I guess “White Inc” is the actual cause hey Nco?

Leave a Reply