'Radical economic transformation needs a blueprint'

Apr 19 2017 19:56
Liesl Peyper

Cape Town – Radical economic transformation, as advocated by President Jacob Zuma and the ANC, needs to be properly clarified as it is currently an intangible and a loosely-defined concept.

This was the view of speakers who took part in a panel discussion on radical economic transformation hosted by the Graduate School of Business of the University of Cape Town on Wednesday.

Mills Soko, associate professor at the GSB, chaired the discussion in which Mncane Mthunzi, president of the Black Management Forum (BMF), Sean Gossel, finance lecturer at the GSG and Nqabayomzi Kwankwa,  United Democratic Front (UDM) Member of Parliament participated.

'No real transformation'

The BMF’s Mthunzi, who kicked off the conversation, said there has been no transformation in South Africa, but rather “reformation disguised as transformation”.

“Reformation is like a chameleon – it is changing colours depending on the environment it finds itself in.  But transformation on the other hand is a metamorphosis by its nature,” Mthunzi said. “The outcome ought to be different prior to the implementation.”

Mthunzi cited the current status of land ownership, where the majority of land is in private hands, the lack of black ownership in JSE-listed companies and the lack of black senior management in the country as examples of the extent to which South Africa remains untransformed.

“Companies continue to reward white people as opposed to black people," he said. “A white man with a matric is more likely to get in a management position than a black man with a post-school qualification."

He also acknowledged though that radical economic transformation is an intangible concept that “no one has defined". Said Mthunzi: “Just like national democratic revolution – it’s political speak. It’s not tangible.”

'A ticking time bomb'

He cautioned though that the lack of transformation in the country is going to explode and no one knows exactly when this will happen.
The GSB’s Gossel, the second speaker in the discussion, said what South Africa is experiencing now is an outcome of policy failure. “It’s not a sudden thing. RDP (the Reconstruction and Development Programme socio-economic policy framework implemented by the ANC under former president Nelson Mandela) was overly optimistic about what could be achieved,” he said. “Much of today’s frustration is because of the RDP’s shortcomings.”

'Radical economic growth'

Gossel added that South Africa can’t have radical economic transformation unless there’s “radical economic growth".

“We’ve got the cart before the horse. You can’t distribute what you don’t have. First we need radical economic growth, which should then be spread across classes.”

Kwankwa said there has been a lack of commitment from the private sector to play its part in true transformation in South Africa. He also bemoaned the lack of leadership in both government and the private sector.

He conceded that although radical economic transformation hasn’t been defined properly it is indeed needed. “But we need to give it ‘pillars’ – as a country we need a blueprint for what exactly it entails.”

Kwankwa also criticised the current land restitution programme of government, because there is no “post-settlement support” in place for people who receive land.

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