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.