[notice]Port Elizabeth pastor Afrika Mhlophe challenges the church in South Africa to engage with the nationalisation debtate and to come up with some suggestions[/notice]
From economists to self-appointed economic freedom fighters, the current debate in South Africa is about the issue of nationalisation. Those who are beating the drum for nationalisation of mines and expropriation of other key assets are increasing their sound to the irritation of those who view this as being counterproductive and detrimental to the country’s development.
The proponents of nationalisation cite the skewed development slope of this country and the facts on the ground are, sadly, on their side. Since the dawn of democracy the ratio between the rich and the poor has widened instead of narrowing. One of the eight UN Millennium Development Goals is the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. You hear that ladies and gentlemen; they are not aiming for the eradication of poverty and hunger but of the extreme side of this social anomaly.
Speaking of the UN, their Human Development Index ranks the Eastern Cape Province very low compared with other SA provinces. It is said that over 80% of this province’s population is made of black people. I am not sure of the politically correct term to use here – is it black of black African? Anyway, though poverty knows no colour it is without argument that its chief victims are the black majority. There are various reasons why this is the case but our fractured past is the safest place to look for some of them.
It is clear that the advent of democracy in SA did not bring with it the benefits some people had been hoping for. It is clear that the train of economic benefit has left many people still waiting at the station and thus many are naturally resentful. They are resentful against white capitalism and the new black middle class which seemingly has become the new slave master. They observe the politically connected and the elite whizz through traffic in their new wheels that leave many with a sense of being “left-behind” while the majority have to do with SA’s unreliable public transport. Poverty is degrading. I don’t care which philosophical position you choose to take on this subject. Whether you are a sinner or a saint, I don’t think you would deliberately choose to be poor.
The Bible says a poor man has no friends and therefore because of this sorry state there are those who have risen and have now arrogated themselves as friends of the poor. They themselves are not poor but claim to speak on behalf of the poor. Unfortunately the poor do not have TV cameras thrust into their faces and the only time they get TV time is when they demonstrate and cause a rampus that gets everyone’s attention. The current government has being trying to address the plight of the previously disadvantaged through policies like affirmative action, Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), etc. The government’s intervention has not been received very well by some compatriots and claims of reverse-racism have been bandied about.
To be frank not all black people support equity policies. In his book, “The Architects of Poverty”, Moeletsi Mbeki, the brother to former President Thabo Mbeki, shows that these policies were designed to placate the poor so that they would not rebel and also to create a new black middle class that would act as a buffer between the poor and white capitalists. Cyril Ramaphosa, himself a beneficiary of economic empowerment, laments the mining companies’ indifference to the poverty that surrounds mining operations. He says that the mining industry spent about R50 billion last year in capital expenditure and that if they had spent about 5% of that on things like education, healthcare or housing, then a lot more difference could have been made.
It is said that some company CEOs earn about 300% more than the lowest paid employee in the same company. It is true that the nationalisation debate is led by some discredited individuals but that does not invalidate some of the arguments they are advancing. For instance, the plot size of where I stay is about three times the average plot size of most township homes in SA. That tells you that the population density of most townships is very high and no wonder people are talking about nationalisation d redistribution. For the record I do not support nationalisation but I also do not support the current status quo. I think that it is time for the Church to come up with its own policies to deal with the disparities and problems bedevilling our nation.