It’s the economy, Cyril!

President Cyril Ramaphosa

South Africa’s economy is not growing fast enough to alleviate poverty and sadly the ruling elites have run out of ideas about how to tackle the economic crisis we find ourselves in. As if this is not painful enough, the government inexplicably increased VAT adding to the horrific economic indicators that signal one of the worst economic crisis we have ever had to dace. Because of the euphoria of Ramaphosa’s administration, very few people analysed the brutality of this action.

In his announcement of this callous action that shows no vision whatsoever. For the recovery of this economy, the then minister of finance failed to link. This increase to the reckless policy uncertainty of the last decade including the premature implementation of free education by the previous president who used this crucial resolution for political expediency and cheap popularity. The public was clearly not the only ones shocked at this VAT increase. COSATU, the SACP as usual were the last to know and seemed all to be taken aback that in the face of 55 percent of the population living on the bread line this was the best thing that the government would have thought of in a pre election year and pronounce as the gift of the ANC to the starving masses of our people.

Quite Frankly, the economic indicators are not looking good, The constant horrific fuel increases is another indicator that underlines the pressure that the population is under. Once you ad the VAT increase to this all the other efforts to zero rate items of the only help to tinker with the vicious effect this must have on the general population. Its actually evil that we have allowed this to happen. All indicators are obviously the result of ten years of economic ignorance and neglect by the Zuma administration.

It is difficult to ignore the heavy price we are all still going to pay for Zuma’s plunder over the last decade. And of course he is none the wiser still singing and dancing as if nothing was wrong. It’s time we faced the fact that the ANC seems not to have a concrete plan to reverse Zuma’s painful economic legacy. While we were pining our hopes on economic growth it seems all we are good at is to see the growth targets revised instead of these being met. With under one percent growth anticipated in the foreseeable future we can forget about making a dent on the rising unemployment now sitting at almost 28 percent – another terrible economic indicator that is totally unacceptable.  Meanwhile all the measures that the ANC may have discussed at its NASREC conference about the so called economic stimulus are lost in translation as the ANC faces an election and is forced to enter the fray with an aggressive and agile EFF that has stolen the initiative on Land reform from it.  Like an ill fitting suit the ANC is wearing the land debate – it is clear that it is not its original idea as leaders contradict each other about how exactly this policy will be implemented.

It’s actually sad what has happened to the think tank of the ANC to be led by the EFF on such a major issue. Will the land expropriation solve the economic trouble that is signalled by yet another horrible indicator – the recession? Or is the economy sounding its own warning shot ahead of the blind implementation of land reform? Whatever the answer to this is, it is clear that the ANC has no plan of any significance but we keep recycling policy positions that have not worked well over the last 24 years. 

So what needs to be done?

It is sad to conclude that the ANC seems to be running out of ideas to turn this economy around. This does not for a minute suggest that nothing was done over

The last 24 years but that too little was done if the economic indicators discussed here are anything to go by. Surely the intention of the economic policies passed and revised over the last two decades can’t have been that more than half of the population must starve?   It is clear that the mixed economy envisaged in GEAR has dismally failed  and ahead of the next election it may well be prudent to take a combination of ideas from different political players and use this to create a new consensus for economic development instead of obsessing over ideological standpoints?  

Coalition governments may well be the answer to our problems. To hope by some miracle the policies that have been recycled since 1994 will suddenly produce results is truly naïve.  The indicators that see our people starve and wallow in unemployment must be taken seriously as a terrible score card for the progressive movement including the moribund SACP and weak COSATU both of whom have failed to make their seat at the governing table count . If anything they made things worse as they cushioned the ruling party from a revolt by workers who bear the brunt of most of these indicators.

I don’t have all the answers but believe that our business as usual approach to the growth of our economy has reached its sell by date.  I am watching the Ramaphosa presidency with great interests and so far initiatives such as YES and the  investment road show , may well be signs of desperation that can only tinker at the margins. What is needed is fundamental change of the structure of the economy – this will require state activism that is sorely lacking at the moment. This can only happen with the fundamental change of guard where no one party can keep feeding us recycled economic policy junk It is clear that  we need a joint up effort that will focus on results that are measurable  and will result in a truly better life for all.

It has been a privilege to write for The Star since May 2017. Owing to my studies I will be taking a break  until January 2019 and I look forward to analyse the path towards the 2019 elections. A great appreciation to big critics of this column –your sharp reflections of this column has made it stronger. Until we speak frankly again – May God Bless You.

JJ Tabane is a PhD candidate at Wits University he will be taking a break to focus on his studies and  will resume his column in early 2019.