SA Government values mice as cheese factory managers more than productive knowledge

Almost 50 years ago, in 1970, Alvin Toffler in Future Shock wrote: Knowledge will become a more important driver of growth than capital or labour.

The two parties that then dominated the South African landscape did not hear the message: they had ideological ear wax and blinkers.

Inside the country the National Party wasted an opportunity to revamp and refocus Bantu education. In the words of Verwoerd, Western education was “of no avail for training which has as aim absorption in the European community while he cannot and will not be absorbed there. There is no place for him in the European community above certain forms of labour. However, within his own community all doors are open… For that reason, it must be replaced by Bantu Education. In the Native territories where the services of educated Bantu are much needed, Bantu education can complete its full circle, by which the child is… developed to his fullest extent in accordance with aptitude and ability…”  

The harvest: the Soweto 1976 riots. 

In exile and underground the ANC under the SACP influence believed labour was all important and capital from hell and that labour time was all that gave value to a product or service – a belief still voiced in 2016 by their leader.  (That statement was never repudiated by Ramaphosa or any leader in the ANC.)

The 80’s introduced “liberation before education”, the burning of schools and the intimidation of teachers and after 1994, the ANC government ensured SA’s education system became one of the worst performers in the world at the highest cost (% of GDP).  

The harvest:  a suffocating labour regime that leaves SA businesses hamstrung (considering productivity levels) and that promotes low-employment business practices.

Whilst race remains an important indicator to measure inequality, trying to always explain situations from a racial perspective often implies ignoring solutions with better potential than betting on race.  The ANC is not alone in operating with racial blinkers. Musi Maimane’s statement that race remains “the only consistent measure we have at this point for measuring inequality”, is simply wrong.

So is Ramaphosa when he offered protection for Maimane for that remark.

And so is Chris Bateman’s editorial to a recent Bloomberg report on Johann Rupert’s comments during the Chairman’s Conversation when he wrote: “What he (Rupert)  misses in his strong argument that Eskom and other SOEs are the real monopolies, is that White Monopoly Capital, like all effective propaganda, is built on the fundamental truth that our Gini-coefficient runs on racial lines – due to the architecture of apartheid.

There are non-racial measure tapes available… and some measure more accurately than race.  After a few examples where the ANC government chose cadres rather than knowledge, the focus will fall on one non-racial explanation for income and wealth inequality.

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The Chairman’s Conversation: Triggering a Groot Trek of productive knowledge out of SA?

Stark dividing lines on the economy and the future of the country were drawn during the Chairman’s Conversation when Johann Rupert of Richemont, Remgro & Reinet was interviewed by Given Mkhari of the MSG Afrika Group.  The Black Management Forum called for controlling the “levers of legislation to determine what happens with capital, opportunities and business prospects” (state control of the economy) with Rupert hinting that “it would be quite easy to lose interest: South Africa has one last chance…

On talk radio, news websites and social media reactions rolled in, many calling Rupert “racist”, “paternalistic” and even “an arrogant ignorant” whilst others concurred with his comments about the young chasing BMWs and immediate satisfaction,  rather than patiently building their businesses and wealth.

The event and the reactions thereto is far more than a storm in a tea cup and one that the whole business community should take note of, as well as every company and politician that had attended the recent Investment Summit. 

The contours of the Chairman’s Conversation, the few comments from the floor and the tsunami of social media condemnation reminded me of a period in world history that had changed and influenced (almost) everything since then. My sense is that both Rupert and the BMF reckon South Africa is at the brink of society-shaking change as well.  That change does not necessarily bode well for the future of South Africa…

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Pres Ramabosasa: has Duduzane’s father made way for Andile’s father?

Pres Cyril Ramabosasa’s written statement to the Speaker that he was not aware of a R500 000 donation by a company with large contracts with government to finance his acrimonious campaign for the leadership of the ANC, confirms he is a person with not the faintest interest in detail and quite satisfied to accept that it is “twelve o’clock and all’s well…”

It is the third time in a year that he denied any knowledge of wrongdoing at the time of the events and for a very long time afterwards. In baseball, it would have been the dreaded Strike Three and out.

But this is South African politics. And with a parliamentary system where the ANC as majority party has accepted as norm the precedent of a president that answers with a “I don’t know” and thereby dodging the crux of parliamentary questions, it will not be “Strike Three” for Ramabosasa.

The two prominent issues about which Ramaphosa also had denied any knowledge of wrong-doing, deal with:

  • the massive corruption of State Capture, and
  • the dreadful financial situation of Eskom.
Continue reading “Pres Ramabosasa: has Duduzane’s father made way for Andile’s father?”

State-owned enterprises: The Parable of the Talents

Total disregard for governance and the basic enterprise principle of return on investment emerged from testimonies before the Zondo Commission, confirming the ANC approach to enterprises and corporate governance considers productivity, accountability and skills as immaterial. Ideological nepotism and cash-for-cadres dominated appointments and decisions. 

Both Government and the ruling party cannot submit a defence of “we were not aware…” about the dire state of Eskom, Transnet, the SAA or the SABC.  Warnings against the mismanagement of state monopolies and the stifling effect of State-owned enterprises (SOEs) on the economy had been voiced over and over again, also in parliamentary standing committees. There the ANC majority vote repeatedly treasured party and cadre loyalty higher than their oath to keep the executive accountable. 

The testimony of Barbara Hogan as well as the annual reports to Parliament by Transnet, Portnet, SAA, Eskom, Sefa and others reminded me of the parable of the talents as recorded in Matthew 25: 14 – 30. Continue reading “State-owned enterprises: The Parable of the Talents”

White Monopoly Capital: astute reverse double somersault or a Janus performance?

Is the presidential acknowledgement of entrepreneurs as heroes and not villains the equivalent of Pope John Paul II’s admission that the church was wrong to condemn Galileo for endorsing a helio-centric view? If so, it is one of the most astute political reverse double summersaults. As deputy-president Mr. Ramaphosa himself sung heartily the “Down with White Monopoly Capital” song in the Zuma choir.

Janus Ramaphosa

Does the comment during the dinner of the Investment Summit really signal the dawn of economic freedom or was it merely a modern manifestation of Janus? Will the future reveal a Ramaphosa butterfly that was an ugly caterpillar under Zuma or is the two-mouths-two-messages the real reality?

The first requirement to assess future options is a proper understanding of the present. Let us explore that by assessing the ANC Government’s (and Ramaphosa’s) views on SMEs:  does it indicate an embrace of private initiative or something else?

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SMEs not the magic “Open Sesame” that unlocks growth & jobs (1)

Within a week of his inauguration as Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni muttered the magical “Open $e$ame” words that, according to legend, will reveal the treasures of economic growth, job-creation and the eradication of inequality.

open-sesame-your-uservame-o-password-are-ectu-open-segame-26200568Addressing the Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals, Mboweni said “to get the economy performing, government needed to create an environment which allowed small and medium enterprises to operate at an optimum level.

“We must think in particular how to support small and medium enterprises. In Germany the economy is driven by the hidden champions that are small and medium enterprises,” Mboweni said.

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