Review: Open Letter to Democratic Alliance South Africa
The Mandate of the Democratic Alliance
The Democratic Alliance,the political party that has been the goverining in the Western Cape since fall of apartheid has focused its mandate on 'a generation of young, mainly black South Africans' who have neither jobs nor education. They claim this to be their biggest mission as it comprisess some six million young people.
This mandate is no different to that of either the United States or the United Kingdom. For as long as I lived in those countries, conservatives were saying the same thing.
The Democratic Alliance says that it will:
- Create diverse education, training, and internship options
- Will bridge the study-work divide
- Will provide better education
- Will accelerate investment and boost support for SMMEs
- Will start a jobs and justice fund
- Will invest in infrastruture for inclusive economic growth.
My only problem with this is that they have been in power since the fall of apartheid and that was nearly a quarter of a century ago. So why, then, have these things not yet been achieved?
The Difference Between Work and Jobs
May I suggest that the reason that this problem of work and good pay for everybody is not achieved because politicians are trying to fix a car by working on a ship?
Work is something we legitimately need to do in order to eat, sleep, go about our business, remain in good health, have friends and community, and generally be in a state of well-being.
Jobs are things that are extraneous to work. Manufacturing yellow rubber ducks in a factory could be said to be a job. Nobody needs yellow rubber ducks to live well. Consistently upgrading cell phones in order to continually profit is a job. Its goal is to make profit for shareholders - not to improve the lot of humanity. In addition, it is a waste of resources in a finite world. Employing labourers to repaint the same walls every week so that they have something to do and something to be paid for is a job. The walls do not need to be repainted every week.
Work, on the other hand, if fixing up the potholes in the road, planting trees, picking up trash, innovating a new means of energy that is sustainable with no toxic waste.
The problem with our 21st century world is that work has long being disappearing. Remember the humble switchboard operator of the 50s through the 70s? They've gone. They have been replaced by automated call centres. And, no, these people have not been reabsorbed into commerce somewhere else. Even though who have retrained during the past twenty years find that there is insufficient work available for them to be employed.
Now we face the introduction of robots. Whatever source one prefers to acknowledge, somewhere between 40% and 80% of humanity will become unemployed during the next five to twenty five years.
How is it, then, that politicians keep 20th century rhetoic and promise jobs and training?
There is only one problem...
There is only one problem in the world today, and it is worse in South Africa than any other country in the world, and that is the division of spoils between the ownership class and the working class.
The Root Cause of Inequaltiy
Low wages for workers are the root cause of inequality, and the greater the difference in reparation between the ownership class and the working class,the greater the degree of inequality.
South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. According to the World Bank, this is the legacy of apartheid.
I recall my late father coming home from his business one day and being upset.By law, he was not allowed to give a job to a well-qualified black man if a less-qualified white man was available. Also,by law, he could not pay a black man the same salary as a white man - even if the black man did the same or better job. By law,they had to be paid substantially less than white people. This was part of the Job Reservations Act.
While the South African government has, from time to time, increased the minimum wage, that minimum wage is based on what Africans were paid previously. So, today, I work into restaurants, and their waitressing staff is paid about $150 (R2000) per month.Some are even expected to work without a base salary and tips are their only wage.
Yesterday, I visited the harbour. A worker in charge of security was paid $280 per month (R4300). After tax, he took home R3900. Since being back in South Africa (three years), I have found it impossible to find single accommodation for under R7000 per month. And that is the bottom of the property rung. Of course, one could chose to live in a tin shanty or the slums.
The point is that it is impossible to live on the amount of money the ownership class pays workers in South Africa, and this low payment is the legacy of the Job Reservation Act.
Business owners are outraged that they should pay a living wage that enables reasonable shelter and nutritious food to their workers. If they did that, gone would be the luxury lifestyle they became accustomed to during the apartheid years.
The Myth of Neo-Liberalism and the Trickle Down Economy
Economist Milton Friedman influenced political leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 70s. They started implementing a laissez-faire economy. This economic system is also known as neo-liberalism. As Thatcher and Reagan encouraged private ownership of previously state run institutions (rail, phones,electricity,etc.), so did South Africa.
In addition, the media narrative focused on influencing people to believe that the trickle down effect would benefit all workers. In addition, politicians indicated that with deregulation (spew as much poison into the atmosphere as you like, unperpay workers, kill the unions) would result in more jobs. This would be because as business made more money, they would reinvest in more business, and that would require more workers.
Nearly half a century on, these narratives have all been disproved. When business owners make more money, they're more inclined to buy a yacht, a bigger car, or a better mansion. They do not invest in more business. Nor does the trickle down effect give workers a greater stake in shared wealth.
So what is business good for?
An economic system is a system of the production and distribution of goods
Business is responsible for the production and distribution of goods. Therefore the cornerstone of modern economic systems is business/trade.
So Why Is the DA - Democratic Alliance - Not Fixing the Real Problem?
Because business is intricately tied to the survival of humanity, there is a lot of fear about regulating its practices or curtailing it in any way.
The problem is that business has now become so powerful that it has not only spewed enough toxins (through manufacturing) into the atmosphere and triggered climate change, but it has lowered wages to such an extent during the last thirty or forty years that the middle classes have shrunk internationally.
Despite this massive abuse of power, governments have not been keen to regulate business and the vast sums that the ownership class are paid in comparison to their workers.
South Africa is no exception, and, certainly, the Democratic Alliance has not even mentioned the problem, nevermind set about fixing it.
So why is ths?
There are two reasons.
The first is that business now holds so much power that tampering with it would actually affect the production and distribution of goods. Technically this would be called a recession.
The second reason is that corrupt politicians feed off the bribes of business. The recent issue of State Capture by the Guptas is only the tip of an iceberg.
Democratic Alliance - Providing Education
The DA wants to provide one year of technical education to all matriculants (high school graduates).
In my experience (on three continents), any free eduation provided by the governments is administered by for-profit companies that provide the kind of skills that take one nowhere. It keeps one poor, ill-informed, and has little market value in the real world.
In order to be taken seriously, the Democratic Alliance needs to indicate what they mean by technical education and how it is going to be funded.
I know that since I have returned to South Africa, I have not been able to learn anything without having to pay out a massive amount of money. I would love to learn HTML5 and CSS3. I would love to learn photography. I would love to learn how to write a movie script. So much I would love to learn - how to make a chair or paint a room. Nothing is available for the general public. There is no such thing as 'continuing education' in South Africa.
And I see no evidence of the Democratic Alliance setting up free education for people who want to learn.
Without a skilled citizenry, either a stable country nor an innovative one can be attained.
The DA has had 25 years. Where is its innovative approach?
Let me say upfront that I think the farmland is misguided at best and a horror story at worst.
I do,however, think that white South Africa needs to remember just exactly how much land was appropriated from people of colour as a result of the Group Areas Act during the 60s and 70s.
I well remember the days we drove past South End in Port Elizabeth and these people being transported to townships and their new homelands.
The chickens have come home to roost. The sins of the fathers will be passed down to the third and forth generation.
Why has District Six not been handed back to the people who used to live there. Sure, it's a complex situation, and sure it's going to cost money, and sure there are people who have paid good money for areas that were once in the hands of people of colour.
Like Israel and an Africa divided into different countries by a colonial world, so,now, we are sitting with the aftermath.
It does, however, need to be resolved. I would say that certainly some land needs to be appropriated. But I would say it should be prime land in the city.
To quote from The Conversation "White people own houses, hotels, resorts, shops, restaurants, savings, cash, foreign assets and other forms of complex financial products. They leverage their ownership and control to extract rents and increase their wealth, while majority of the blacks are still poor."
There is going to be no righting the situation in South Africa until some of the wealth of white South Africans attained during nearly half century of apartheid is shared/given back to those from whom it was taken.
To quote a post written by Albert Kombrink, a South African musician, "Corruption is no worse than in the old South Africa – they stole an entire country and disenfranchised 95% of the population on an arbitrary selection-criterion of the colour of your skin."
Inequality in South Africa
Business Rents and High Prices
One area that nees to be looked at is the massive amount of money that property owners charge for the rentals, and this is even more extreme in business. I have lost count of the number of business owners who have told me that they couldn't operatte because the rental was too high.
The profits in South Africa should be much lower. If people are only motivated by profit at the expense of humanity, then the scientists who say we will be extinct as a species within 80 years are right.
I can no longer afford to go to movies in South Africa? Why? Beause an insurance consortium owns both movie chains. In the 'white areas,' they have built 3D and VIP theatres (which show 2D movies) that force one to pay high prices for movies because they are providing some junk food. In the 'people of colour areas,' movies can still be seen in 2D.
Items that I have been able to buy in both America and the United Kingdom where I lived for many years are more expensive in South Africa.
A month ago, I looked at an item selling at Forever 21 for R250 at Canal Walk but was marked $10 in America. As the clothes are still shipped in from the East, and as customs tax is not responsible for the sharp difference in prices, this extortion is the result of the for-profit motive. South African business owners want to make as much money as possible, and squeezing the workers and the consumers dry is par for the course.
What is the Democratic Alliance doing about this?
Do you think that there needs to be redistribution of wealth in South Africa?
Review: South Africa Political Party Democratic Party
The one big problem in South Africa is the fact that people cannot afford to live a safe and dignified life with their needs met. This is a direct result of poor wages paid by the ownership class.
Raising the minimum wage does nothing to fix this situation. That's because business will then merely increase the price of goods and raise their own salaries/income as well. The ratio remains the same.
To quote from the Guardian, "The new ratios offer a benchmark for corporate greed that exposes exactly which firms are sharing the wealth their employees create and which aren’t, knowledge we can use to impose consequences on the corporations doing the most to make the United States more unequal."
As the realization hits internationally that inequality is a direct result of excessively low wages for workers and skyhigh rewards for the ownership class, resistence is growing.
It's time to wake up and smell the roses.
We cannot continue in a world where the power vested in the hands of business owners is leading our world to destruction.