It’s Up to All of us to Leave the Next Generations a Land of Peace

Vusi Gumede

May 7, 2017.

About five years ago, Thandika Mkandawire, the eminent Malawian economist, elaborated the point he had made in 2007, arguing that “social compacts tend to survive if they are around substantive issues”.

He said that what was needed was a “social pact that produces both patient labour and patient capital and ensures that the burden and returns of economic development are fairly shared and permit redistribution that does not undermine economic development”.

Since we first publicly pronounced that South Africa would become a democratic developmental state, I have been thinking about how we can build a uniquely South African developmental state, given our circumstances as dictated by our political economy, especially as South Africa is increasingly, if not speedily, drifting away from becoming a democratic developmental state.

As we argued once we were in government, it seemed that a South African developmental state could only be an outcome of a social pact/social compact, hence the 2017 strategy and tactics of the ANC boldly stated that “there is a long way to go in building a capable developmental state”.

Recently Joel Netshitenzhe clarified that what South Africa needed was to “combine the best attributes of a developmental state with those of social democracy … [that] South Africa needs to sue for sustained high rates of growth of the kind attained in Southeast Asia, conjoined with redistributive mechanisms that are akin to the Scandinavian variant of capitalism”.

Part of the fundamental challenge confronting South Africa has to do with the ramifications of apartheid colonialism, as many have argued.

The effects of apartheid and colonialism would, understandably, take a long time to undo.

One of the most complex tasks that can alleviate the effects of apartheid colonialism is the proper restructuring of the South African economy to ensure the redistributing of wealth, income and resources. These issues were highlighted in launching the National Foundations Dialogue Initiative.

South African society finds itself at a point where it needs a social compact more than ever since the end of apartheid rule.

Conceptually, the state is in any case in a contract with the citizenry, and the government ought to work with the whole of society towards achieving what the liberation struggle envisaged.

It is therefore a matter of concretising such a “social contract” and the conversations across our society need to be structured to guarantee practical solutions. The national dialogue initiative is critical and probably overdue.

We all need to change behaviour. This needs to be accompanied by mindset change.

For instance, the South African corporate sector benefits from the hegemony of global capitalism and it is well connected globally.

While making profits, the corporate sector must also serve society.

It must create in-service training opportunities for young people, for example. It can invest in the real economy. It can finance infrastructure, etcetera. It can do all these things while making profit.

The government, while exercising leadership, should manage public funds better. Wasteful expenditure, such as in depreciating assets, must be minimised. The huge wage bill can be reduced.

The quality of public services can be improved. The perception that the government is corrupt and mismanages public funds needs urgent attention.

Every South African should make the social pact a reality. As members of communities, every South African can play a role in bringing about a better society.

Community integration culminates in social cohesion. All should play their part in building the South Africa that we can all be proud of – and we would be at peace to leave behind for future generations.

Community governance can go a long way in mitigating many social ills. All South Africans should reach out to one another. The consequences of the inability to find each other could be devastating.

Another area of concern relates to policies pursued since 1994 and their implementation. The social compact and the creation of a developmental state require a clear development agenda.

If we accept the National Development Plan Vision 2030 as the South African vision, although imperfect, what is missing is a clear development agenda.

The National Dialogue should play an important part in shaping an ideal national agenda, especially as it seems that the ANC will co-govern with other political parties from the next general elections.

Through the National Dialogue, communities can reintegrate and we can build our society. Progress and prospects should be acknowledged while we deal with our challenges. South Africa can still be a developmental state. It would be a uniquely South African developmental state.

The National Dialogue is also a chance to clarify what is meant by radical economic transformation, the second transition, state capture and white monopoly capital — and for all stakeholders to play their parts in the pursuit of inclusive development.

• Gumede is a professor at Unisa and director of the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute. The original version of this article appear in The Times newspaper:

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