SA must fight inequality, warns analyst
It is a fallacy that the National Development Plan addresses inequality and that failure to do so will guarantee more social and labour unrest, political analyst Adam Habib said on Monday.
"The National Development Plan does not go after inequality... what it wants to do is drive poverty alleviation," Habib said in a dialogue with fellow academic Stephen Friedman at the Centre for Conflict Resolution in Cape Town.
He said the NDP sought to create growth and employment through a range of unobjectionable measures, but ignored the fact that growth accrued to the middle classes faster, thanks to their investments, than to those at the bottom of the scale.
"So as growth happens and as income grows at the base of society, what you also have is that people at the top are growing faster and therefore inequality levels are growing faster."
Habib said this phenomenon had played itself out in India and China over the past 15 years.
He warned it posed a bigger risk in South Africa because the country had the highest levels of inequality in the world.
"If you don't bring inequality levels down we are going to have a repeat of Marikana, we are going to have a repeat of De Doorns, we are going to have a repeat of the violent service delivery protests that are happening.
"Essentially what we are confronted with today is a rage building at the base of society, and that rage is built at the base of society because of the levels of inequality in our society."
Habib said the outrage of the poor was steadily fed by executives who owned millions, politicians who drove luxury cars, and a president who spent millions on his homestead at Nkandla while telling workers, who demanded better increases and citizens who demanded better services, to be patient.
"We can deal with poverty alleviation as much as we like. As long as we don't deal with inequality this society will burn. It might not burn today, it might not burn tomorrow, but it will if we allow inequality levels to increase as they have," he added.