Black Lives must remain central to our developmental trajectory

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Black people who have been victims (and continue to suffer) from socio-economic oppression must be given the opportunity to break the cycles of hegemonic systems intent on keeping wealth in the hands of only a select few.

Unemployment remains a scourge, with black people and especially black women in this demographic, the worse off.

The country’s economic growth depends on increasing the number of black people who are business owners, those who head up boards, corporations and institutions.

The black middle-class must be given every opportunity to grow if we are to collectively reap the benefits of living in an inclusive South Africa. This would, for one, require a firmer and more truthful commitment by traditional capital to engage with a wider range of stakeholders if it is to play its part in creating a society that strives to shed the yoke of a system that continues to have roots in every aspect of South African life.  

Window dressing is not sustainable. We need real change and must continue to strive towards a society that is more equitable than what is currently the case. Our futures depend on it.

Unfortunately, the effects of the dysfunctional economic system inherited from the apartheid regime persists today, 21 years after democracy. Institutionalised racism continues unabated despite the best efforts from the government and some in civil society to address and redress systems of inequality which continues to favour the few at the expense of broader society.

Poverty, after all, affects all the citizens of this country – whether it be from a social mobility, education, health or law and order perspective.

South Africa has, to a great extent, experienced positive growth rates, though unemployment continues to be a worrying challenge. It has been made all the more difficult due to the decline in growth since the 2008 global economic crisis and the current downward trend in financial markets across the world.

The country has not been unaffected by any of this, with economic growth expected to be around 1.1 percent for 2017.

Quality education and a functioning state healthcare system have been identified as priorities in order to facilitate the engagement of a wider section of the population in the formal economy. 

The restructuring of the economy is essential so that it is inclusive and accessible to all; increased investment and employment opportunities are also necessary if the cycles of poverty and inequality are to be addressed and eradicated. It is counter-intuitive and bad business to profile risk based on race as a determining influence in deciding on who and how much to lend.

In terms of a broader national development objective, the financial sector and those engaged in small business development need to show a firmer commitment as they are regarded as important platforms in the job creation process. 

It is worth repeating and acknowledging that only three percent of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) are in the hands of black people.

Social contracts in South Africa face formidable challenges, but can be overcome – the perception in and outside of the government is that the government is the main facilitator and agent of social partnerships.

South Africa’s engagement on the international stage with trade partners have opened up massive opportunities for the export of goods and services, but there remains a reticence within the business community to want to do business in Africa, Latina America and Asia.

At home, redress and processes that facilitate it must continue to be a crucial factor going forward in terms of economic parity.

Aside from ingrained inequality in almost every aspect of South African society, an entrenched belief of superiority and a denial of privilege continues to manifest itself on the streets, in social spaces, learning institutions and in business in the republic.

A study on race and privilege, describes it as follows: “Privilege refers to the collective advantages that a person can inherit from birth and/or accumulate over the course of time. These advantages aren’t innate – they’re constructed by the society in which they exist, and can be seen wherever there are normalised power relations. Everyone is privileged in different ways – your own privilege may lie within your genetics, upbringing, current circumstances, or luck. Some are within our control, and some are not. Privilege is also related to context – you can enjoy advantages in one culture or social setting that can easily become disadvantages in others.”

“It’s worth taking a lesson from critical race theory, in part to understand white privilege, but to consider others too. This sees racism as an endemic part of society, deeply ingrained legally and culturally, which means it tends to look normal. Formal equal opportunity projects can remedy extreme forms of injustice but do little to deal with the business-as-usual forms of oppression. In such a context, claims to objectivity and ‘meritocracy’ act as camouflages for inequality.”

We can ill-afford for this sense of privilege to continue to be “normal” – as we are living in an abnormal society reality. It will continue to fester and erode socio-economic and political stability.

Nathan Oliphant is senior public service official in the North West Provincial Government. He writes in his personal capacity