When will ANC drop the megaphone and start fixing policies? - Businesslive

31 January 2021 - One of my favourite cartoons of the late apartheid years shows two men in tropical hats, each with a rifle slung from his shoulder, officiously contemplating the countless mass of stick figures who densely surround their primitive palisade.

Michael Morris

One of my favourite cartoons of the late apartheid years shows two men in tropical hats, each with a rifle slung from his shoulder, officiously contemplating the countless mass of stick figures who densely surround their primitive palisade.

Evidently oblivious of their jeopardy, one of the men asks the besiegers through a megaphone: ‘When are you going to realise the hopelessness of your situation?’

A decade ago, I wrote of the cartoon that “(the) beleaguered condition, the delusion of power, the defiance of historical forces, never mind the sheer force of numbers – all this was true of the embattled Nationalist government of the second half of the 1980s”.

I added, though, that while “it would have been unfashionable, and certainly controversial, to have suggested as much at the time, the cartoon worked both ways”, recalling historian Nigel Worden’s observation round about that time that ‘the state had lost the initiative but no one else had the power to seize it”.

Not much today is sensibly comparable with the late 1980s, but you do wonder about the implications of that question, “When are you going to realise the hopelessness of your situation?”, and to whom it might most pointedly apply in 2021.

I was reminded of the cartoon last week by the latest Quality of Life (QOLI) Index produced by the Centre for Risk Analysis (CRA) at the Institute of Race Relations.

The annual Index, begun in 2017, is one of the best illustrations available of the state of the nation at household level, benchmarking quality of life by province and race.

It calibrates the following 10 weighted indicators as a 0-10 score: the matric pass rate; unemployment (on the expanded definition); monthly spending of R10 000 or more; homeownership (houses owned but not yet paid off); access to piped water, electricity for cooking, and basic sanitation; irregular or no waste removal; medical aid coverage; and the murder rate.

This basket of factors tells us a lot – not about plans, policies or state spending, but about how people actually live. The results are telling, though you can be sure the poor don’t need any index to learn how bad life has become.

The Western Cape has the best quality of life, with a score of 6.5, compared to the national average of 5.7. At 6.4, Gauteng comes second. These are the only provinces “where a relatively high standard of living is attainable”, notes the CRA’s Gerbrandt van Heerden.

The Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga have the lowest score, tied at 5.0.

Nationally, white South Africans have the highest score of 7.8 (excluding the murder rate) or, including murder, 7.7. Black South Africans continue to perform worst on all indicators, with a final score of 5.3.

Today, not unlike the late 1980s, South Africa’s reality is profoundly at odds with the government’s response to it.

Instead of reforming the policies that have produced the picture so vividly depicted in the Index, the government is only intensifying state-directed redistribution that is hostile to investment (the only source of growth, jobs and household wellbeing). Thus, we have expropriation of property without compensation, BEE, race quotas, National Health Insurance, the minimum wage, restrictive labour law, profligate tax injections into failing or inefficient state-owned enterprises, and threats of new taxes.

It is a hopeless situation – perhaps even the ANC realises that. But we are a democracy, and the ruling party only has the power that is given to it. Which means the real question is, when will the people realise the hopelessness of their situation?

Morris is head of media at the Institute of Race Relations

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/columnists/2021-01-31-michael-morris-when-will-anc-drop-the-megaphone-and-start-fixing-policies/

 

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