How to fix SA? We need action and realism

by Stephen Mulholland: Former editor of the Financial Mail and Business Times.
If South Africa was a commercial enterprise then the way it’s now being managed would be a dead giveaway the enterprise is rudderless, leaderless, drowning in bureaucracy, suffocated by committees, poisoned by rivalries, weakened by corruption and drained by overpaid and under-qualified staff whose aim seems to be to get rid of as much money as possible as quickly as possible.

And in our age of the “tenderpreneur”, theft from the public purse – with the collusion of those elected, deployed and employed to serve our interests – is rife, as evidenced by the endless creation of instant multi-millionaires.

A sure sign of organisational collapse is when committees proliferate, odd, high sounding make-work jobs are announced, there’s a proliferation of fancily named initiatives about plans, vision, strategies, diagnoses, “going forward” – instead, presumably, of “going backwards” – senseless management changes and meetings, meetings, meetings.

Then we have Trevor Manuel, minister of something-or-other, telling South Africans it was critically important they “take ownership of SA’s future”. Most South Africans are too busy struggling to meet the wave of rising prices that the neglect, corruption and incompetence of the ANC has visited upon us to “take ownership of the future”. Manuel shouldn’t insult our collective intelligence with such specious calls.

Another frequent sign of corporate illness is the move to new, stylish and expensive headquarters. Share punters will tell you that’s often time to sell the shares. On the other hand, the time to buy is often when a new CE is called in to sort matters out.

Earlier this month we learned that, as squatter camp inhabitants shivered in the bitter cold, our Parliamentarians are to begin spending R1,4bn of our tax monies on a splendid and luxurious new debating chamber, a banqueting hall (while millions are short of food) and specially appointed lounges for the use of foreign dignitaries.

This display of conspicuous spending includes buying up most of Plein Street in Cape Town. There will be a 1 500-seat joint chamber and banqueting facility which, at that size, will rival the best to be had in London, Paris or Washington. Our hard-working MPs are to be provided with gyms, restaurants, libraries, apartments and other facilities.

Manuel released the startling news there are too few people working in SA. His National Planning Commission (the very name gives one the shudders) has produced what’s described as a “diagnostic overview document” in which we learn (surprise, surprise) that the two key problems we face are high unemployment and poor education.

Well, the disastrous state of our education system is the direct fault of the ANC regime. They can blame apartheid and the Nats till the cows come home but they have had almost two decades to try to remedy that racist approach. But what have they done? The ANC pensioned off a whole generation of dedicated teachers and education experts willing and able to assist the new SA while at the same time embarking, at enormous wasted expense, on a fad called Outcomes Based Education.

This Government should be ashamed that, as they spent R55bn on useless arms, children were, and are, being taught under trees, folks relieve themselves in rivers and into holes in the ground and go hungry while politicians swan about in luxury vehicles attended by an army of guards.

Unemployment is directly linked to Government’s interference in the economy through its black economic empowerment policies that enrich the favoured few but inhibit entrepreneurship and with it economic growth.

Our labour markets have been distorted by ANC-aligned trade unions whose demands for “decent” jobs have discouraged potential employers. It seems the ANC/Cosatu approach is that unless jobs come with all the trappings then we don’t want them.

We don’t need Manuel and his commission. We need action and realism.

Useful resources:
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