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Khaya Dlanga: Blame the state, not whites

Khaya Dlanga

As we transform SA's white-dominated economy, things must get better not worse. That means training and education. Which means the state must step up.

As we transform SA's white-dominated economy, things must get better not worse. That means training and education. Which means the state must step up. (AFP)

We know that the economy is still in white hands. We also know that not only do white people still own a large chunk of it, they also manage it. They are the CEOs, middle managers and managers. 

Black people don't have huge responsibilities in big industries and companies. They are simply the doers. Not the ones who do the thinking and then make the decisions. The lower down you go down the food chain, the more blacks you find. Therein lies the problem. Two economies. One poor and black, the other rich and white. 

The food chain is a pretty accurate picture of the South African economic model. Blacks at the bottom of the food chain, white people on top. The lion can eat everything and cannot be eaten because it sits on top of the chain. Being a decision-maker means that you are at the top. 

I know some are going to say that this is only logical – because the majority of South Africans are black, that is. Well, let's put some numbers to that. As of 2011, black people constituted 87% of South Africa's economically active population, yet a mere 9% of CEOs are people of colour. Obviously there is something very wrong with this picture, and we shouldn't be comfortable with it. 

What is our government doing to ensure that there is faster change? And I am not talking about change for appearance's sake, because such changes don't last, they just delay the looming, inevitable anger. Which, when it comes, will be amplified many times over. 

The government has a huge responsibility to ensure that the transformation it seeks really does take place as quickly and as efficiently as possible.  

But when the change happens, things must get better not worse. We don't want a case of "we told you so". 

And that means training and education. The better the quality of education black children get, the more likely they will be on boards, become CEOs and so on, but they are also more likely to do something even better than getting jobs – starting their own businesses, and creating their own industries which will expand the economy, which will in turn lift many from the hopeless darkness that is poverty. 

People like change. The less change people see, the angrier they get. The angrier they get, the more pissed off they get at their leaders. Lack of change gives people reason for justifiable anger. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, the list is endless. 

Apartheid was not just about dehumanising blacks, it was meant to completely disempower them economically so that they may have nothing. The assumption being that when you have nothing you can't do anything. 

The model was doomed to fail, however, because the country needed to expand economically in order to sustain itself. Apartheid died because economics demanded it.  

Now, however, with apartheid dead, when the people become angry they won't turn their anger towards white business, but towards those they tasked to make the changes. Politicians. 

The current economic model is unsustainable. Just as apartheid was. We can't have too much for a very few and too little for the many. By giving much to few, the government is unwittingly practising modern-day economic apartheid. 

What is the government doing to ensure that new industries are coming up so that we don't have to beg for a seat at the economic table? What are we creating? What conditions has the government created to ensure that there are new high growth industries for black people to participate in and own? 

To simply want us to participate in the current economy is not enough. It is not growing nor is it going to lift as many people as quickly as possible out of poverty. To simply replace a few black people in boards, CEO positions, middle management and management is not enough. Yes, it is a start, but it is far from enough if we are to achieve what we want for our country. 

The intentions of the government are great, but its actions are not. 

It's not just the economy that needs to be transformed, but the way government works needs to transform in order for it to achieve its goals. 

The economy will only transform when the government transforms its thinking and its actions. Economic transformation is not about removing white people from the economy, it is about adding the excluded. The pie is big enough for everyone. 

The government needs to change how it works and it will change this country. 

It would be prudent for those in political power to refrain from blaming white capital when they have not done much to encourage the expansion of that capital to include all. 

They should refrain from lazy rhetoric, which is aimed at making them seem like they are doing something. 

Distractions are not going to eradicate poverty, nor are they going to create industries, or put black people in boardrooms and make them CEOs. Actions are.

Khaya Dlanga is a writer, communications specialist for Coca-Cola, and a terror of the social networks. His new book in the Youngsters series, In My Arrogant Opinion, is available at leading bookstores. Follow Khaya on Twitter here: @KhayaDlanga.


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