Only growth can achieve economic justice and reconciliation
Mmusi Maimane, DA National Spokesperson
16 August 2012
Note to editors: The following is an extract from a speech delivered by DA National Spokesperson Mmusi Maimane at a conference held in Johannesburg today by the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation on economic justice for the next generation.
It is a great pleasure to be here today. Organisations like the IJR represent a crucial part of our civil society movement.
The debates, conferences, papers and discussions generated by the IJR and others like it form the intellectual foundation on which we can continue to construct a stronger democratic dispensation.
The theme you have chosen for today’s conference illustrates clearly where we are in this construction process: We have achieved success in transforming our political institutions to be free, non-racial and non-sexist. We wrote a new constitution, and have universal human rights. We have won political freedom.
And although we take these freedoms for granted now, they represent immense progress, given our history.
The question that is foremost in all of our minds, and which is essentially the question posed by your conference theme is: What now?
What are we to do about the poverty, inequality, unemployment and other social ills that still affect South Africa; and black South Africans in particular? How will we deliver economic justice to the next generation?
Apartheid, and the many years of colonial oppression and dispossession that preceded apartheid, put us in the situation of extreme inequality that we are in today. It stripped black South Africans of both assets and dignity.
Everything our country does must be aimed at reversing the effects of apartheid; to empower the historically dispossessed – black – majority; to break down the wall that excludes people from opportunity and to restore the dignity and humanity that apartheid took from black South Africans.
The Democratic Alliance’s answer to this challenge is based on the opportunity paradigm. For us, and for me, economic justice means giving every South African a fair opportunity to access the economy, earn a living, own assets, send their children to school, and build a better future for themselves and their families. We want the economy to work for the many, not just the few. We want every South African to be a stakeholder in the economy.
But right now we are still an economy of insiders and outsiders. The insiders have skills, assets, education and political connections. The economy works for them. The outsiders are excluded from the formal economy. They have no assets, little education, no jobs, or low-paying jobs and no political connections. They are structurally excluded by a system that doesn’t provide them with a good education or enough opportunities for employment.
So how do we propose to create the opportunities for people to access the formal economy?
We need to push economic growth to unprecedented levels to ensure that there is enough for everyone; and we need to couple fast growth with the right policies to ensure that everyone gets a fair chance to share in prosperity. The best way to do that is to encourage job-rich growth.
That requires some big changes.
The changes we would implement are built around five themes:
- Fixing education, to ensure all children have a fair chance to access the formal economy once they finish school.
- Implementing plans to incentivise youth employment. In particular, we would implement a youth wage subsidy and a youth opportunity voucher scheme to help young people to start a business or pay for their education.
- Investing in infrastructure for growth. We need to put much more money into the kind of infrastructure that facilitates economic growth, like transport infrastructure, harbour capacity and broadband infrastructure.
- Attracting investment, because we do not have enough capital to bankroll sufficient investment. We need investment from outside of South Africa to help finance our growth and development. Any decent economist knows this.
- Encouraging small business development. Small businesses are the engines of job creation. And jobs are the pathway to opportunity, so we need to do everything we can to encourage South Africans to start their own businesses or grow the ones that already exist.
Together these interventions will work to jump-start faster economic growth and job creation. And once we get our economy to create more jobs, more people can enter employment and improve their lives.
True and lasting reconciliation can only be achieved when everyone has a fair chance to participate in the economy. Every South African must be a stakeholder in South Africa. Every person must feel like he or she benefits from our progress. If we do not create a more inclusive economy, people will continue to be excluded as outsiders, and South Africa's reconciliation project will be stillborn. And that is why achieving faster economic growth is so important. It is the pathway to jobs, economic opportunity and ultimately, reconciliation.
At the end of the day, the empowerment of black South Africans is paramount to lasting reconciliation. If we do not give everyone a real chance to participate in the economy, the reconciliation process will be withered down to a symbolic project devoid of real impact on people’s lives.
The DA has a real plan to achieve these outcomes in national government. We are already implementing it to the extent we can in the places where we do govern.
The government’s plan is the National Development Plan. It is similar in its proposals to our Plan for Growth and Jobs. The problem is that the ANC does not to support the policy proposals made in the NDP, and is too divided to agree on an economic policy for South Africa. The NDP is a government initiative, led by Trevor Manuel, but it is not an ANC initiative – and the recent policy conference of the ANC took resolutions directly contradictory to the NDP. So, we know that the division in the ANC means the NDP will never be fully implemented, or certainly not in the case of the most important structural reforms – leaving South Africa in an uncertain situation with no clear vision for growth or economic justice.