Africa Check’s views offensive to those who have tried to build better SA – Business Day, 23 October 2015

IT IS irresponsible to describe as "unsubstantiated", as Africa Check does (Louw’s claim remains unsubstantiated, October 20) the claim that black South Africans have seen significant improvements in their living standards since 1994. It is also offensive to the efforts of all South Africans who have worked so hard to build a better nation after 1994.

By Frans Cronjé

IT IS irresponsible to describe as "unsubstantiated", as Africa Check does (Louw’s claim remains unsubstantiated, October 20) the claim that black South Africans have seen significant improvements in their living standards since 1994. It is also offensive to the efforts of all South Africans who have worked so hard to build a better nation after 1994.

The evidence of improvements in living standards since 1994 is unambiguous in areas that range from education to income levels. That the Free Market Foundation might have chosen not to share its sources does not change that overall picture. Nor, with respect, do we understand why the foundation should.

Where we have looked at Africa Check reports, they are wracked with errors — in one sample, a third of its findings were wrong. It has also been put to me that staff at Africa Check have been requested to make findings against the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) in order to discredit our influence in the battle of ideas, especially with regard to our arguments in favour of the private sector and a market economy.

These requests apparently emanate from within organisations that are seeking to advance a socialist agenda for SA. The unwritten but common understanding or strategy of these organisations, I am told, essentially has five parts.

The first is to challenge evidence about the progress SA has made since 1994 and advance a narrative that the African National Congress (ANC) has failed in its entirety to improve living standards. The second is to discredit the idea that the Democratic Alliance (DA) offers a feasible alternative to the ANC. The third is to discredit "leftist" movements that are seen as unreliable — divisions in leftist politics have always been more vicious than those between the economic left and right.

The fourth is to use advocacy efforts to deter policy makers from adopting pragmatic, market-driven economic solutions that could address many of SA’s education, healthcare, employment and developmental challenges. The aim here is to deny the government the opportunity to meet popular expectations with a view to driving deeper divisions between citizens and the state. The fifth is to provoke conflict between poor communities and the state, while simultaneously helping to deny the state the resources to safely manage those conflicts. The aim here is to incite violent clashes so as to turn public opinion against the government — both in the Western Cape and in the eight provinces controlled by the ANC.

In each case, the protests are initially incited around legitimate complaints such as farm worker wages, cases of failed service delivery, police brutality or university fees (as we have seen this week). The end goal, however, is apparently to provoke some form of popular uprising with a view to opening the way to a new leftist regime in SA — or implementing what ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe described on BDlive as a "pseudo-revolutionary" inspired "Arab Spring".

While such a strategy surely cannot succeed, and is apparently already being investigated by the intelligence services (who are so politically compromised as to raise a host of other problems), it is nonetheless a dangerous game that is now fanning flames of conflict between citizens and the state. What is needed instead is calm leadership and effective co-operation between the government, think-tanks, business, civil society and the opposition to develop and adopt pragmatic solutions to SA’s socioeconomic problems.

Given the sloppiness of its work and its alleged witting or unwitting political stance, the SAIRR will not entertain further requests for information from Africa Check. Other organisations might want to reassess their positions as well.

• Cronje is CEO of the SAIRR

Read the article in Business Day here

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