/ 22 March 2013

Roll up your sleeves and work together

Bobby Godsell.
Bobby Godsell.

'Jobs don't get created by government — or very few jobs get created by government. Government can create a modest amount of employment opportunities for a period of time but, actually, jobs are created where you have something you can sell to somebody else at a price they're prepared to pay," Bobby Godsell told students during an address at the University of the Witwatersrand last week.

The event was organised by the University's Student Development and Leadership Unit.

Godsell has been a member of the national planning commission since 2010, the body responsible for drawing up the national development plan (NDP) that was released in August last year. The ANC formally adopted it as party policy and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has begun shaping the budget around it.

Insufficient numbers
Godsell said the country faced the challenge of not only creating sustained economic growth but also of social cohesion in a country with a history of deep and violent social divisions. But because of racial anxieties, South Africans weren't coming to the nation-building table in sufficient numbers.

"I am generalising, but there are a helluva lot of whites out there who seem to want the black population to rise up and hug them and say, 'Welcome, we like you; we're not going to slit your throat, please stay'. Now I'm talking very bluntly … But why should they do that? Three hundred years of conquest comes to an end and now you must go hug.

"For black South Africans, there is an equal problem. A lot of people have been stuck in a victim mentality. There are times when I want to say to people in government, 'You won the 1994 elections with about 70%, you have a budget of R1.2-trillion, you have an army, you employ 1.5-million people, how can you still speak like a victim? It's convenient to be a victim because then you don't have to make choices, you don't have to defend your actions, you can just say, Oh, its apartheid'."

Social cohesion
Those psychological impediments created a passive citizenry who were all too ready to leave things to the initiative of the state.

"The easy way out is to say we'd love to be patriots but the blacks won't let us or we'd like to be responsible but we're victims," he said.

Social cohesion and trust among different sections of the population was important if South Africa wanted to reach the ambitious economic growth targets set by the NDP. These included growing the economy to 2.7 times its current size in monetary terms by 2030, doubling per capita wealth from R55 000 to R110 000 a year and cutting unemployment from 25% to 6%. When it came to eradicating poverty, a breadline of R478 a month was set.

"I don't know how you think you could survive on R478 a month but, anyway, nobody should be earning less than R478 a month," he said.

Another aim was to decide on a target for household income to ensure a decent life, Godsell said. That would help to resolve disputes such as the ones seen at De Doorns and Marikana.

"Something for accommodation, something for transport, something for schooling, the amount is somewhere between R5 000 and R10 000 a month," he said.

"These targets are tough but they are no way impossible. If we can grow this economy by an average of 5.4% between now and 2030, we achieve these numbers … But it will take hard work," he said