/ 7 November 2013

Letters to the editor: November 8 to 14 2013

Education, health and infrastructure are essential to escape poverty. (Madelene Cronjé)

Gibberish masks real neoliberalism

Dave Martin's letter pointing out the meaningless use of the term neoliberalism by the contemporary South African left ("If you don't like it, blame it on neoliberalism", September 25) was excellent. But this should not be misconstrued as saying neoliberalism has no meaning or does not exist in South African economic policy.

The letter shows how the left cannot provide meaningful political education because of its partisanship, self-serving careerism and mental laziness. This is why the left is silent about the real neoliberalism of current government policy – and the way it prepares for future neoliberalism.

In housing, for instance, the way has been cleared for the elimination of free public housing and its replacement by privately funded housing, which will lead to mass indebtedness. In healthcare, the way has been cleared for the private sector to take over the provision of public healthcare (in a parodic imitation of the American Affordable Healthcare Act).

In social grants and pensions, the sums provided have not kept pace with inflation for five successive years. All social spending has been restrained more ruthlessly than it was under Gear. This has created serious problems in education and healthcare, problems the left and right both blame on the provinces and on corruption.

But blaming the problem on government administration rather than admitting it is a product of financial constraints serves Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's neoliberal interests. He and President Jacob Zuma are acting out the standard neoliberal theatre: first ensure government will not work then declare that, because government does not work, the private sector must get the money.

Other obviously neoliberal policies include the demented plan to give billions of rands to huge corporations for them pretending to hire young people and the privatisation of the publicly funded Gauteng freeway network.

Martin is right to say the National Development Plan does not resemble Gear, but the NDP is unmistakably neoliberal in essence. Shorn of its empty rhetoric, the NDP is about giving trillions of rands to private companies to develop the energy and transport sector so that the private mining industry can transport more ore out of the country.

This, however, only makes it plutocratic; what makes it neoliberal is that the companies involved (construction, manufacturing and mining) are based outside South Africa – which is intended to benefit the rich in Western countries and to avoid wealth redistribution at all costs.

It is clear that the Zuma administration has many propagandists for extreme right and neoliberal notions; they repeat the reactionary nonsense of corporate-controlled publicity systems, such as the media and "civil society" organisations. It also seems clear that the Zuma administration, lacking any coherent ideology of its own, is happy to latch on to neoliberalism as a device for self-protection. For example, consider Blade Nzimande's use of neoliberal gibberish, about how education will lead to economic development, in order to enlarge his empire of incompetence while providing the entire government with excuses for their failure to provide that development.

The pervasive propaganda used against the organised working class has spilled over into much of the ANC's discourse: our ministers bash unions as routinely as if they were British Tories.

Neoliberalism is indeed a shibboleth when used by ignorant and mendacious people on the left, but it is also a hegemonic force out to wreck our country, with the collusion of the leftists and their reactionary allies in and out of government.

Until we renounce it and the collaborators, we are doomed to suffer ever more as the plutocracy tightens its noose around our necks. – Mathew Blatchford, Fort Hare 

Africans should not have to flee to Europe to enjoy a decent life

After reading Percy Zvomuya's article "Africans face new perils on the seas" (November 1), I reached the conclusion that these deaths are not necessary. African people are not supposed to die like this given that this continent is rich in natural resources and human capital.

Great leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Robert Sobukwe of South Africa come to mind. We are not short of reference points to help us create stability in most countries on the continent.

In an article titled "What will it take to end poverty in Africa?", written for the World Bank's Africa Can End Poverty blog in September last year, Shanta Devarajan offers some powerful solutions to the twin problems of poverty and corruption in Africa – problems that compel impoverished people, such as those who drowned off the Italian island of Lampedusa, to take major risks looking for greener pastures in Europe and elsewhere.

"Governments must provide ­primary education so that poor children can have access to learning," he wrote. "Education, health and infrastructure are important for escaping poverty. The question is: why has there not been more education, health and infrastructure for poor people? … The problem is that much of the money spent on these sectors is captured by powerful elites before it reaches the poor."

Functional states in Africa must come to the rescue of mismanaged ones because running away from one's country does not solve any problems for the displaced person.

People must be helped to develop their countries and not forced to run away from economic hardships and civil wars started by ­warlords fighting over public resources. The continent needs new ways of doing things. The problem of irregular migration can be stopped if African leaders put the interests of their people first. – Vusumzi Nobadula, Cape Town