Letters to the Editor: June 17

M&G readers weigh in on Trevor Manuel and the National Planning Commission, job creation, Popcru and more.

A whine-whine situation
Trevor, Trevor, Trevor — so they finally let you out to speak after the transformation. How quickly you have adapted to ANC-speak, overstating the case and avoiding the overarching issue that impoverishes our country (Trevor Manuel, “In search of win-win solutions“, June 10).

Like most people who follow South Africa’s progress, I was amazed by your claim of “our immense progress so far”. It is lamentable that after 17 years you will not admit that the actions of successive ANC governments have got us to where we are and are pushing us towards where we are going. For example, the effect of the late-1990s affirmative-action dogma that resulted in the removal of institutional memory and destroyed parts of the organisational infrastructure continues to prevent us from moving forward.

One aspect to keep an eye on is the slum of tomorrow, in which the old and poor live in shacks made from the materials of substandard RDP houses, whereas their children live in houses with running water, space for quality time with their children and so on. What committee of buffoons decided to cram so many dwellings into so small a space? Never mind your inflated claim that “South Africa — can come together and unite”.

Successive governments have produced laws creating deeper divisions than the pre-1994 administration! Most of these have been enacted to enable the well connected to charge the government more for services, thereby further robbing the millions of poor people “apartheid left us with”.

Is the National Planning Com­mission actually going to address how the billions are disappearing? Or does your plea, “Send us your ideas”, show the NPC is bereft of ideas and you hope someone will come up with an idea before November?

Only three-quarters of the way into the article did you mention corruption. If only the remuneration for government tenders had been set at sensible levels, there would have been a lot more money to spend. This would have reversed the trends that “further reduce the inability of government to deliver to the poor”.

You use a “breakdown of ethics in society” to attempt to distance your fellow ANC colleagues and sympathisers from the phenomenon of corruption. They are too busy jockeying for position in government to care about the poor.

Please break out of this pattern of delusion and concentrate the NPC’s efforts on eradicating corruption. Only then can we hold out any hope of ending poverty. — “New citizen” Tom Morgan

Effective job creation requires ideological shift
The dire warnings by Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi about the consequences of high levels of unemployment should be taken seriously. It is widely felt that the R9-billion the government is making available for job creation is not enough — and it admits it.

The New Growth Path has some positive elements but a crucial aspect is being underplayed. A new Codesa-type agreement between the government, labour, business and civil society organisations is needed, an ideological shift with some practical policies to go with it. Big business always pulls in the direction of “business as usual”, while Cosatu and the government cling to outmoded ideological fixities. But a solution could be negotiated.

Comrades Vavi, Ebrahim Patel and others need to go to the poor and offer a new vision. They need to challenge organised business, labour and the middle class to buy into it.

The outline of such a deal could look something like this: big business (however defined) agrees to a percentage of equity to be ceded to an equity fund in a giant economic-empowerment deal for the nation. This fund would be jointly run by the government, labour and business. Its purpose would be to give every South African a stake in the formal economy and to stimulate growth.

Its main output would be a basic income grant. This grant would effectively deal with the effects of unemployment. By redistributing money downwards, it would stimulate jobs by creating demand for the many commodities that are locally produced.

If the fund was large enough, it could also fund a national service scheme for all graduates — a massive literacy and numeracy project along the lines of the highly successful Nicaraguan model, which would support scholars as well as communities.

The final element would be a professionally managed youth soccer programme (based on the Brazilian model and gender-blind) that would provide facilities, coaching and a well-organised national youth soccer league.

In exchange for this, business could be offered an end to existing black economic empowerment schemes (though worker buy-in in broad-based black economic empowerment schemes could still be promoted), an end to deployment entirely, a revision of affirmative action so that qualification, experience and ability would be of equal importance to redress in making appointments (particularly managerial ones, which are critical to achieving outputs), and a revision of labour laws, which would make it easier to employ and dismiss staff. In addition, much simpler, direct subsidies for productive investment are needed.

The government should use the simple means of tax concessions and direct subsidies to encourage investment in fields such as agriculture.

A programme like this would have a visible redistributive effect and not only make everyone feel that they have a stake in a united South Africa but actually give them one in reality. The result would be much greater social cohesion. — Jack Lewis, Cape Town

Pop goes union democracy
It was disheartening to note an article in the Mail & Guardian titled “Mass expulsions ahead of Popcru polls” (June 10). It fabricates the “facts” and intends to sow confusion and fiddle in the internal affairs of a worker organisation by means of ill-conceived opinion pieces. According to the article, Popcru “has expelled members around the country and interdicted them from organising and attending union meetings or entering its offices”.

For the record, these decisions were taken after due consideration: counter-revolutionary tendencies were meant to plunge the organisation into crisis. Many of these culprits disturbed meetings in various provinces so steps were taken against them. — Norman Mampane, Popcru national spokesperson

As Popcru’s conference draws near, one expects workers to be more resolute than ever to remove the incumbent leadership. Why did it dismiss some leaders without explanation to the branches of the trade union? — because it didn’t want its dirty linen exposed in public. The union lacks internal democracy, open debate, worker control and a revolutionary character truly representing the interests of its members. Members of Popcru want clean leaders who do not take positions of power to enrich themselves and their cronies. — Mabake wa-Masweneng, former Gauteng provincial executive committee member of Popcru, Grahamstown

Zapiro’s cartoon is racist
Zapiro’s latest “rape” cartoon exposes his racist prejudice against black people. The fact that he was involved in the Struggle against apartheid does not give him the right to hold black people in contempt.

I was saddened by the Mail & Guardian‘s decision to publish a racist and offensive cartoon (June 10). In a country such as ours with its sad past, it is horrifying that a national newspaper can publish a cartoon perpetuating the old colonial racist stereotype that black males are sex-craved savages.

The cartoon is not just an insult to Jacob Zuma as an individual but also to all black people. Zuma, as a citizen, deserves to be treated with dignity, irrespective of his race. It is insensitive and irresponsible behaviour such as this that led to calls for a media tribunal. But should Zuma decide to sue Zapiro and the M&G, it will be portrayed as an assault on media freedom. — Musa Dube, Soweto

Say goodbye to the fish
In his article on sushi (Friday, June 3), Matthew Burbidge mentions that in Johannesburg we can eat endangered fish such as rock cod and red snapper from Mozambique. In South Africa, we have fished our stocks of rock cod and snapper to below sustainable levels. We can still buy cob, even though the stock has collapsed to below 5% of prime.

It can be argued that our rhino stocks are in a much healthier position than our black, red or white steenbras, yet we can legally still remove these from the ocean. If we continue to consume these fish from Mozambique we will, within the next two decades, have helped cause their stocks to collapse too. Mozambique has granted the Chinese a licence to fish in return for structural development and other nations fish illegally. — Andrew Bannister

SADC useless on Zim
The Southern African Development Community is another toothless dog, just like the African Union – that is, if it reaches the status of a dog at all. SADC has again put Zimbabwe on the agenda but has shown the world one more time how toothless it is (“Zanu-PF: It’s time to take decisive action“, June 10).

SADC knows what the problem with Zimbabwe is but continues to discuss it indecisively — instead of removing the dictator who keeps hiding behind the principle of sovereignty. It is ready to be dictated to by Robert Mugabe. How toothless can you be? — Pius Khumalo, Soweto

Party is bigger than Blade
In some countries where the head of state is the general secretary of the Communist Party, there are no workerist tendencies against a leader holding two positions (“Pro-Nzimande lobby claims another victim“, June 10).

The epoch of Chris Hani as South African Communist Party secretary general was during an interim government that was not yet a democracy. The epoch of Blade Nzimande is in a different time zone altogether with unique dynamics.

It is time to defend our gains as a working class. We have long spoken about working-class hegemony in all key sectors of our society and this was emphasised by a special congress in Polokwane.

We cannot single out one leader, as though Nzimande alone is the SACP. He is accountable to the collective leadership. The SACP took a strategic decision to allow some members in leadership positions to accept government appointments. Thus the minister of higher education and training continues to abide by the principles of the SACP. The SACP is stronger than ever before with regard to membership growth and its cementing of acceptance by working people. — Tsietsi Mokoena, Mothotlong

Flying the Gripen
I agree that Major Catherine Labuschagne deserves her place among the top 200 young South Africans — she is a remarkable young woman. But your journalist does her a disservice by stating that she is “the world’s only female pilot of frontline fighter aircraft”. What rubbish! The missing word is “Gripen”. — Des Lynch, Brig Gen (Rtd), SA Air Force

Get off the soapbox
American ambassador Donald Gips should not preach to South Africans about democracy (“Kennedy speaks to us all today“, June 10).

The United States is no example to the world and has the unenviable record of supporting some of the most brutal and oppressive regimes of the past century. It is all about expediency and what suits your country.

With the notable exception of Iran, the US has been more than comfortable with autocratic rulers in the Middle East and North Africa. American arrogance and hypocrisy stink to high heaven. — H Barca

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