Race continues to define wealth patterns in South Africa. That is why we need more visible state interventions to change trajectory and empower the economically marginalised, writes NOMVULA MOKONYANE
A recent Ipsos poll looking at the socio-political views and expectations of more than 3 500 South Africans older than 15 years of age, showed that 63 percent of citizens are proud to be South African.
According to Ipsos, ‘they were randomly selected and interviewed face-to-face in their homes and home languages. Interviews were conducted all over the country, from metropolitan areas to deep rural areas’. This is down 12% points from 2015, when 77% of South Africans stated that they were proud to be South African, according to Ipsos.
The poll discovered that South Africans are divided in their views regarding the future: four in every ten (40%) say they are expecting a bright future for children, while another 43% believe that their future is bleak. Analysing the answers by age shows a high level of optimism from the youngest age group of 15 years to 17 years olds, while those between the ages of 18 to 34 years are less positive – with 43% believing the future is bleak.
Poverty eradication, job creation, cleaner and more effective governance will all go a long way in achieving a higher percentage of happy citizens. How we view the comfortability of our lives depends entirely on the context – living a middle-class existence in a brick house with access to water, electricity, tarred roads, good schooling, healthcare versus living in a shack, scraping by to make ends meet, uncertain future for your children.
The people in the latter group are mostly black people. We cannot afford not to take that into account when we speak about South Africa as a developmental state. Loosely speaking, a developmental state aims to balance social development and the growth of the economy.
It uses state resources in an attempt to alleviate poverty and expand economic opportunities beyond established constructs – in South Africa this has taken the form of the RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) and the BBBEE (Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment) initiatives and more recently the establishment of the National Development Plan and the Black Industrialist Programme. All of this coupled with the recently adopted Radical Economic Transformation policy of the ANC at its July 2017 Policy Conference.
These programmes, which favour black people, will and must continue to define our developmental landscape for the future. We cannot hold on to refrains like ‘but we have to move on’ or it has been more than 20 years since democracy’. Hundreds of years of slavery, colonialism and apartheid all sought to suppress, oppress and exclude especially black people from fulfilling their collective potential.
The use of race was apartheid’s defining feature in restricting access to the economy for black people and the wilful underdevelopment of black people so that the black community, largely uneducated, could only become labourers and victims of cheap labour at that.
Despite this, black people have made their name in every sphere of South African society, albeit them being in the minority of so-called upward mobility, given the day-to-day strife still experienced by the majority of black South Africans. The Black Diamonds are the exception rather than the norm and should not be viewed as a complete picture of overall black success in South Africa.
It stands to reason than that in order to reverse the systemic subjugation as a race, that black people get preference when it comes to job creation, wealth creation and state support in terms of road building, home building, education and jobs. It is not only a political imperative but a moral imperative that has to continue to be pursued and seen through.
This must continue to be non-negotiable. The Chinese have managed to get nearly a billion people out of poverty through a common vision of nation-building. Today, they are arguably the most powerful economy on the planet and continue to grow.
In South Africa, we still have a lingering anti-black sentiment, whether it is in the boardroom or on the sports field. Black people continue to have their ability as human beings called into question by a system and a movement of thinking which continues to fly the flag of whiteness as a measure of excellence. South Africa needs an economy that can meet all the needs of its citizens and one which is sustainable for generations to come.
Wealth creates wealth as the old saying goes. This will only be possible if the South African economy builds on the full potential of every citizen, every woman, man and child in every part of the country. South Africa is a society defined largely by racial wealth inequality and this has made for a socio-politically unstable landscape which has been exacerbated by economic growth i.e. the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
This makes us profoundly vulnerable as a nation. A post-apartheid world has also meant that we are part of a global community, with our economic fortunes tied to that of the rest of the world. Globalisation has shown that it further entrenches existing inequalities and again, pushes those on the margins beyond it. Therefore, government programmes which are aimed at redress have to be supported, and while not visible overnight will stand our country in good stead for hundreds of years to come.
Race will continue to play an important role in how we continue to seek to redefine, rebuild and grow as a nation and make the majority of our citizens happier than what they are now. Black progress and excellence must be encouraged, acknowledged and seen as possibly one of the greatest boosts to the South African economy. More people with more money equates to a growth in the economy. As the majority of people in South Africa are black, we will only be helping ourselves by supporting programmes aimed at getting the country to a more socio-economically equitable space. Future generations are depending on us.
Mokonyane is Minister of Water & Sanitation and an ANC NEC Member