Thirty years ago (on New Year’s Eve 1989), FW de Klerk knew that the South Africa was on the verge of massive change. The combined debilitating effects of apartheid’s shackles on the economy (including sanctions) and the impossibility to continue with the disenfranchisement of the majority of the population, prompted him to prepare his watershed 2 February 1990 speech in which he effectively pulled the plug on apartheid.
Will the combined negative legacy of the transformational drag on the economy and the implosion of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) prompt Ramaphosa to discard the ANC’s ideological stance in 2020?
Cyril Ramaphosa’s commitment to revitalise the economy reminds one almost of president
Zuma’s commitment to combat corruption: spraying air freshener to divert
attention from a rotting carcass.
The person who promised in his New Dawn manifesto a growth rate of 3% in 2018 through “an unrelenting focus on economic growth” has delivered after 18 months a growth rate of 1.3% in 2018 and negative growth up to date for 2019. Some people would say low growth is still growth, however economic growth below the population growth rate impoverishes the population.
presides over an economy in worse shape than when he assumed power: one
Small enterprise in South Africa is unimportant for the Government. Whilst there is lip service to creating conducive conditions for small enterprise, the Government ignores the reality of small formal firms disappearing at an alarming rate. Small enterprise is the canary in the coal mine of a toxic business environment: they die off first before the toxic conditions are lethal for large businesses.
Government favours Big Business (for tax income) or Big Labour (watering its socialist
roots to ensure worker class loyalties). Small business cannot fulfil either
these roles. The demise of small formal
enterprises in South Africa (as recorded in SARS data) is indicative of an
utter indifference by Government to the plight of small enterprise.
That raises two questions:
Is the demolition of the small formal enterprise environment a strategy by Government to achieve its objective of radical racial economic transformation?
Is it also a strategy to plug a hole in the leaking SARS ship since, from a VAT perspective, businesses with a turnover below R1 million is a drain on Treasury?
Based on SARS data on Value Added Tax (VAT) covering the years 2007/8 to 2017/18 the devastation on micro and small businesses with a turnover of R1 million or less, is evident. The number of VAT vendors in this bracket declined by 49% from 300 299 in 2007/8 to 154 559 in 2017/18.
“We need to massify the creation, funding and development of black-owned small businesses, township businesses and co-operatives.” Cyril Ramaphosa’s New Deal for South Africa (14 Nov 2017).
This quote from Ramaphosa’s 10 point plan manifesto to get the economy growing forms part of the action steps under Point 5: “we must accelerate the transfer of ownership and control of the economy to black South Africans.“
At first take the creation of an immense number of enterprises sounds like a pro-business approach. But is this objective realistic? Will it render the desired outcome? Even more basic: is it sound economics?
With Moody’s soon to announce their assessment of SA’s credit risk, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba made it clear that a white minority was controlling the economy through a monopoly and that was now to change. Gigaba, speaking mostly in isiZulu, said “The economy is controlled by a minority; they are a monopoly. There are a lot of companies owned by very few people and the services and products on offer enrich these few people.” (Gigaba: It is time to put us first ).