SA needs a national airline

Oct 17, 12 SA needs a national airline

Posted by in Economics, Featured, Politics

SAA needs another bail-out. The market-oriented commentators are livid. How, they ask, can it be reasonable for a country like South Africa to continue to pay for an unprofitable airline. A country like South Africa, is exactly the point. Because South Africa is a country with means and opportunity. An awful lot of commentators seem to be drinking the “poor-us” koolaid. South Africa is not a poor, destitute country that can barely afford to send children to school. In fact, South Africa’s education budget is obscenely large when compared to some of our poor neighbours. Money exists in the South African budget to pay for things. Tax revenue allows the country to invest in the things we need. More importantly, tax revenue is available to be invested in the things that will increase the tax base and grow the economy. A significantly redistributive tax system is a necessity in a post-Apartheid, horribly unequal society. But the aim must be to use the tax system to stimulate growth in those areas and for those people previously excluded. One of the ways to do this – and a pretty solid way to achieve measurable results (if almost every other country in the world is anything to go by) – is investing in transport infrastructure. Nothing slows the growth of a market or sector like not being able to move people and goods. South Africa, having realised this, is investing heavily in transport infrastructure. Trains and automobiles, or at least roads, are high on the priority list. As are ports. Why is it that commentators seem to be under the impression that planes should somehow be excluded? Planes, trains and automobiles. And boats. This a massive and fundamental part of the puzzle of how to fix South Africa’s economy. Made more fundamental by the size of the country and spatial disparities created by Apartheid. Of course, the particular set-up of South Africa’s national carrier makes this a little tricky. SAA needs to be flying to places no-one...

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Marikana – Turning-point or just another local incident?

Aug 24, 12 Marikana – Turning-point or just another local incident?

Posted by in Featured, News & Media

Richard Stupart argues eloquently that the tragedy at Marikana is something more than just another violent incident. I use tragedy rather than the much-hyped term “massacre” intentionally. While the situation at Marikana tragically left 45 people dead, I’m not sure it’s responsible to characterise it as a massacre. I’m also not convinced that the black-and-white terminology is convincing anyone else anymore. What at first shocked the nation as a simple-to-comprehend case of the big, bad government murdering its own citizens, has emerged over the past week – and is likely to continue to unfold so over the coming weeks – as a much more complicated situation. Conflict between different unions vying for power and influence probably fuelled the violence. In spite of the shock and horror of the liberal media, this isn’t exactly unprecedented. The mining company played a role in how they handled the run-up to the crisis, as well as the post-crisis management, but a 300% salary increase demand when the price of platinum is depressed isn’t an easy request to stomach. Of course, the Platinum mining companies are also learning what gold learned a long time ago – that worker satisfaction is not directly linked to the demands of unions and that blaming other people, whether or not you’re right, generally doesn’t help. The local municipality bears some blame – whether or not the miners identified them as such – for their dismal (and desultory) attempts at service delivery. Anyone who has visited townships in the area knows that the once-off donations from mining companies (even on the rare occasions that they really are the schools and clinics people want) can’t take the place of regular, everyday, ordinary municipal services. Basically, it’s complicated. What is clear, however, is that it is not a situation where the police systematically built up to an outright attack on enemies of the state. This wasn’t even primarily about the government. The cops were called in to try and keep the peace in a fight between labour...

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Youth want more than education

Jun 18, 12 Youth want more than education

Posted by in Economics, Featured, Politics

Youth Day 2012 in South Africa was thoroughly hijacked by the education activists. June 16th was about more than education access. Sure, education was, and still is, an important issue but the contribution of youth to the liberation of South Africa had to do with a whole lot more than just schools – it had to do with the bigger goal of a free country where opportunities exist equally for all. To reduce the challenges facing the youth to “education” is disingenuous. It is also a misrepresentation of the youth. Not least because education has so far failed the youth of South Africa. In the past 18 years, South Africa has invested an inordinate amount of money in education. Beyond the millions government invests, private sector dishes out CSI money to education projects at an alarming rate. Private citizens spend disproportionately on school books, uniforms, transport and fees. Parents and all too often grandparents sacrifice health and wellbeing to pay for tertiary education, often paying exorbitant prices to fly-by-night colleges. Even those attending reputable higher educational institutions, put significant resorces into an extremely high risk investment. There are stories of whole villages pooling their funds to send the one top performing child, sometimes one in four or five years, to university. Of course, given the inequalities of the system, a poor child from a rural, under-resourced school with no support system, often no proper accommodation and poor school-level preparation has an extremely limited chance of success. Especially in a tertiary education system where even those who could afford good schools don’t make it. The return on investment in educational opportunities in South Africa is far from guaranteed. I’m not talking here about the whining whites who think the only reason they don’t get offered a senior management position straight out of varsity is because of their race. Getting a matric or a diploma in South Africa does not translate into any job. An awful lot of people won’t get a job until they’re over...

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Traditional Courts Bill a Travesty

Mar 29, 12 Traditional Courts Bill a Travesty

Posted by in Featured, Politics

It seems to be becoming a fashion for South African countries to create parallel ‘traditional’ legal systems. Last year the Malawi government was widely condemned over local courts bill that gave legal authority to ‘lay courts’. Part of the reason for the criticism was the bizarre crimes that were recognised, such as “writing or uttering words with intent to wound religious feelings” and “fouling the air”, but the more important problem was that it created a parallel, largely unregulated local legal system. Now South Africa is following suit. The Traditional Courts Bill, now with the NCOP, will give the various traditional leaders in South Africa unchallenged, potentially unconstitutional legal power over approximately 17 million citizens. Traditional leaders argue that the bill is necessary to enable them to enforce the decisions of the traditional courts as they see fit. Opponents of the bill argue that this is precisely the problem. The traditional courts bill will enable traditional leaders to be appointed presiding officers of traditional courts, where they will rule on both civil and criminal matters involving members of traditional communities. These presiding officers will be able to hand down fines, forced labour or, perhaps most controversially, remove “traditional benefits”. In the context of communal land ownership, common in most of South Africa’s traditional-authority areas, this includes access to land, which in turn translates into food, income and shelter. The ability to earn a living and feed one’s family will be dependent on the whims of traditional leaders. Legally. Chiefs will rule over their subjects, making laws, deciding on cases and handing down punishments, with near complete control over people, law-making and access to benefits and land, as Sindiso Mnisi Weeks  explains in this article.  If you think this is sounding a little like the dark ages, you’d be right. And the situation gets even worse for women. In many traditional courts, women are not allowed to represent themselves or even speak during proceedings. This bill reinforces this by allowing for women to be represented...

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Playing politics with the poor in Zimbabwe

Mar 05, 12 Playing politics with the poor in Zimbabwe

Posted by in Featured, Politics

At the end of last year, the UN World Food Programme began warning that up to 1 million people in Zimbabwe would face hunger and malnutrition after poor rains last year. Many poor families have also struggled to fill the gap left after remittances from family members working in South Africa ceased with the resumption of deportation of Zimbabweans. In this context of insecurity, hunger and desperation, the Governor of the arid Masvingo Provinces has banned 29 NGOs from working in the province. This is likely to bring hardship and undermine the livelihoods of many, especially given the government’s previously demonstrated inability to meet the demand for assistance. The governor said that the ban is because NGOs were secretly campaigning for Mugabe’s opponents. It is unclear whether this claim is true, but it does raise the question of the role of NGOs in politics in Zimbabwe. Many commentators have written with unease about the possibility that NGOs, with money from outside the country, could interfere with the democratic process. If a foreign group came into a country and told local people what was good for them, while at the same time handing out cars and televisions, there would be an outcry, especially if that group was telling people that a particular political leader was bad. That sort of outside interference wouldn’t be acceptable. So, the logic runs, why should it be okay for an NGO to come into a country and hand out food, medicine and sewing machines and do the same thing? International NGOs are widely accused of throwing elections and imposing Western ideals, although admittedly most often by dictators and corrupt officials. In this case, the NGOs that were banned could not be accused of being foreign, neo-colonial Western agent; they were local Zimbabwean NGOs. Should that make them exempt from the accusation of playing politics with the poor? Unfortunately, no. While local NGOs are traditionally far less likely to take up a political agenda under cover of humanitarian work, international NGOs...

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