WHEN the electric icebox was invented, thousands of ice haulers went out of business. At the turn of the 20th century, nearly every family, grocer, and barkeeper in South Africa had an icebox. But ironically, South Africa’s dependence on ice created the very technology that would lead to the decline of the ice empire — electric freezers and refrigerators.
During the early 1900s, these appliances became more reliable, and by 1940, millions of units had been sold. With freezers allowing people to make ice at home, there was little need to haul massive quantities across the country.
We can’t stop progress and if we do, we risk losing far more than jobs, our Earth and our human habitat is at risk. Because of altered circumstances, Eskom has decided to shut down five coal power stations — Hendrina‚ Kriel‚ Komati‚ Grootvlei and Camden. The termination of coal truckers contracts has lead to a furore, with Cosatu labelling it a “hostile act”.
We can’t turn back the clock. This is not simply about Independent Power Producers (IPPs), as 250 medical professionals and medical organisations stated in the Durban Declaration, climate change is a medical emergency. According to the Lancet, climate change is the greatest global health threat of the 21stcentury.
Each year has seen an increase in global ambient temperatures caused by the release of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) associated with carbon and fossil fuel such as coal, with the resulting melting of permafrost and the polar icecaps, retreat of glaciers, thermal expansion of the ocean and most indicators are off the charts. Africa will suffer most from increasing temperatures. Workers will be most affected by associated loss in productivity.
We can’t afford to live under domes with an altered climate, neither can we afford to miss out on the renewables revolution. Far from being a scourge of privatisation, it is one of our country’s few success stories, continuing to attract investment, continuing to produce jobs and the roll-out of renewable energy is very impressive. It represents a paradigm shift, we dare not ignore.
A way must therefore be found to accommodate the major shift in energy priorities and the sudden dislocation of an entire industry. Truckers can truck goods in other markets, we must assist them, but we cannot step back from the icebox analogy and the melting point — we really no longer need a coal trucking route, nor a coal industry and its cost in terms of human life.
One can only suggest Eskom needs to be more strategic in its approach and truckers need to given the resources to regain control over their lives. Government must assist in skills retraining and investing in adult education that will help families deal with the crisis. It must not be mislead by the unscientific opinions and haranguing of union bosses.
Extract Published in Cape Argus, Letters 9 March 2017
THE Anti-Politics of Andile Mngxitama, Zanele Lwana, Dumisani Hlophe, and Gillian Schutte have graced a number of publications over the past weeks. From City Press to Independent Online, this group of self-appointed political pundits, have become a stock source of criticism of any opposition trend which does not have the commandeerist seal of approval.
Whether it be advocacy of Mandela’s non-racial legacy, a march in support of economic development, or a campaign against corruption within the ruling party, such opposition concerns are written off as nothing more than “right-wing conservativism”, “pro-JSE market fascism” and “white privilege”.
In Whites Marched to Uphold their privilege Schutte expresses her belief that the #ZumaMustFall march “indicated the wish to shift political power back into “competent white hands”.
In see through the white nostalgia for apartheid, Mngxitama and Lwana, assert that the #ZumaMustFall campaign is “just an excuse to flaunt racism and fascism”.
In Madiba legacy a liberal construct Hlophe maintains Economic Freedom Front leader, Julius Malema is right when he says “Mandela has gone in our minds from militant to saintly reconciler”. It is not the ANC who have reconstructed Mandela from “a militant liberation hero to a reconciler, nation-builder and saintly Mother Teresa character” but rather “unreformed apartheid benefactors.”
All three pieces demonstrate a class project that is avowedly against the non-racial policies of the ruling African National Congress party and leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance. In order to gain relevance within the ultra-leftist circle surrounding the South African Communist Party, various trade unions and the EFF, (Malema is by all accounts, a Maoist), these pundits blanket-label opposition (and government) in terms that are extraordinarily broad, and often qualified by hate speech and racial profiling.
A progressive meeting aimed at reclaiming economic policies that will avoid South Africa going bankrupt, is thus something more sinister, a conservative “reactionary movement”. An amalgam of youth, students and ageing lefties is thus either a new threat, or an old foe, the”white right-wing” organising only “under the pretext of fighting corruption”. Mandela’s legacy is therefore, a cynical “liberal construct”, a new target in the battle against neo-liberalism by the ultra-left.
It was not so long ago, when communists were on the receiving end of this kind of McCarthyiest witch-hunt, to expose persons and movements with wrong-views, divergent opinions and unlicensed ideology. What is clear, is that there is growing opposition to untrammelled government largesse, an unequal state where 40% of the budget goes towards public service salaries. A country dangerously teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. An economy being strangled by monopolies and parastatals. Since Mr Zuma came to power in 2009, says the Economist, South Africa’s finances have grown ever more precarious. The budget deficit is 3.8% of GDP. Public debt has ballooned from 26% to almost 50%. (see Try again, the Beloved Country)
Unfortunately, the drift towards fascism in South Africa, isn’t coming from conservatives within the African National Congress, and the democratic opposition, it is coming from ultra-Marxists on the ground, (and within parliament) who see themselves as a vanguard of a revolution still to come.
Whether it is in terms of the Arab Spring, which failed notably in Syria, where the result is 380 000 dead, or in terms of South and Central American failures such as Chavez, Castro and Kirchner, these pundits, notoriously thin on human rights and individual freedom, believe that ideology alone is sufficient to move the country forward.
SOUTH AFRICA’S YOUTH are experiencing an economic disconnect. A generation faced with a world without jobs, a massive debt burden, and an economy that has failed miserably to gear itself up for the third-wave technologies that Asia and the West have embraced decades previously.
While you were out striking, marching or simply shopping, the world evolved, from a bipolar economy, dependent upon China and the USA, to a multipolar universe — an economy without a centre. The rise of the Information Economy — based as it is on information freedom, has been coupled with successive innovations. The Third Industrial Revolution has produced a ‘post-scarcity economy’, where having a ‘China on ones Desktop’, a 3D printer capable of printing anything, is considered de rigeur.
Successive waves of innovation have seen — the virtualisation of the economy, the dematerialisation of assets and the Internet’s proverbial death-of-distance. Pop-up factories, makerspaces, friction-free digital copies and the ‘Internet of Things’ are all buzzwords and terms which the youth are invariably going to meet on their free education journey. In the future, your neighbour will hand you a copy of an open source motorcycle, just so the two of you can go for drive. When you return, you will recycle the vehicle into any number of other open source devices.
We are rapidly approaching an era in which robots self-assemble and produce the goods, which we buy with our wages, which are in turn given to us, via a more efficient means of production and redistribution of wealth. This is an alluring proposition. Holland for instance had moved to end labour in mining. Machines are replacing humans wherever they are found, and the full automation of society is only a matter of time.
Now, Let’s talk about the welfare disconnect
Although the country is one of the few nations on the continent to have implemented a social security programme, this programme is geared towards the elderly, disabled and child-care grants. Thus the youth of today, are born into social security — their parents are recipients of state welfare not because they are citizens, but because they have children.
Once a child is over the age of 18, this grant falls away. The double-whammy of unemployment and poverty kicks in. Some 25.5 percent of the population is unemployed and this figure is worse when the youth and first-time job-seekers are concerned, rising to 63%.
Today’s student unrest is a direct result of the situation where a pupil, having generated income for his or her family, simply by being a child, turns into a liability on becoming a young adult and tertiary student. In most cases, such a person is forced to fend for him or herself.
This is an enormous shock to both the youth and the family.
So far as social security in South Africa is concerned, we are a nation which has the cart before the horse. Instead of paying families to have children, we should be paying people to stop working.
South Africa’s youth can work and play, just about anywhere there is an Internet connection or icafe, but getting connected to the Net is not sufficient to enable jobs and free education. There are other necessities, common to first world economies which we lack as a nation, and without them, being merely connected, is simply not good enough. In fact, a job, as an end in itself, may not necessarily be all that desirable, the same way that owning anything in an economy based upon abundance, is not the alpha and omega.
Fixing the disconnect
Exactly how is the country to going pay for free education, and range of services? How are we all going to live in a world without jobs? These are the questions foremost on people’s minds, as the country sobers up to the events of the past weeks, which saw the unprecedented storming of parliament and storming of the Union Buildings.
South Africa as luck would have it, already has a ‘sovereign wealth fund’ with a massive R1.5 trillion rand invested, and certainly the youth need to be tackling finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and education minister, Blade Nzimande on why they are suffering in the face of so much wealth.
Instead of a Public Investment Corporation (PIC), benefiting one privileged generation who just happened to be in power during the 90s, let’s make the public investment more inclusive of all citizens, and all generations, and recommit the fund to its Public goals, since the ruling party appears to have lost the distinction between what is public and what is private, funding Nkandla, and government pensions for party insiders.
PIC should rather be redirected to funding a social wage for all citizens, one which includes free education, health insurance and a basic income grant. Instead of a party wage, we could have a social wage reducing the worst affects of poverty and mitigating the coercion inherent to the job market, even one that is Internet-enabled, while providing free education.
Moving South Africa from a coercive labour market to a voluntary labour market, could easily be achieved by removing the compulsion, violence and necessity to seek employment.
A job should not be a requirement in order to survive or be a South African citizen.
Labour should never be compulsory, or forced under the barrel of a gun. As Marikana has proven, people are willing to die for their freedom, and this message is now being taken up by students, who rightfully are demanding free education. The same generation will soon be demanding social security, a social wage for life.
Only the most productive labour and most capable persons would enter the wage economy. One has merely to look at social democracies in Europe to see what a social wage economy looks like:
The State disburses funds, seeing an immediate benefit to the fiscus, via the value added taxation system, which recoups the money spent, in a virtuous cycle.
Citizens with a social wage, are able to purchase the necessities of life and thus avoid the worst pitfalls of extreme poverty.
There are compelling reasons for embracing wealth redistribution in this way.
Alaska for example, pays its citizens to purchase services that would normally be gained from the state, from the private sector. In this way, the state avoids creating enormous bureaucracies which are costly and unsustainable by their very nature, and avoids the cost escalations that come from tenderpreneurs, and mega projects, whose only aim, is to keep people employed, in a world in which labour not leisure is the goal.
Societies with some form of social wage, whether social security or social welfare, produce more scientists, artists, musicians and thinkers. They are better equipped to innovate and create. They experience stability and longevity, both in terms of health extension and the extension of the period in which these societies exist, and remember.
THE boom in property prices in South Africa has meant that for many families, owning property is out of the question. Renting results in vulnerability and a number of factors below need to be considered. The move by listed property groups into residential property has further pushed up rental prices. Rents have increased on average by 10% pa, with yields at 6% compared to the inflation rate 3.90%
Rent stabilisation offers an alternative to social housing projects. In the London borough of Camden, demands for rent stabilization are producing results, and it perhaps time that similar policies were considered in South Africa.
Like Cape Town, at least a third of Camden residents live in privately rented homes, with more and more families being forced to move into a sector once considered mainly for young professionals and students.
This means that tenants have no long-term security which affects issues such as preventing children settling in their local schools and families becoming part of their community.
The average house price in Camden is £700,000 (R125 million) and is way out of reach of all but the wealthiest families. The average rent for a two bedroom property is £440 (R7883) per week and these rents and house prices are simply unaffordable for the majority of local people in a borough where average income is around £33,000 (R591 246)”
According to a report produced by the Camden City Council, “The main economic reason for introducing regulation is that the market in question is operating badly – i.e., there is market failure arising from market power; lack of information and asymmetry in that information; external costs or benefits from the provision of the good; dynamic problems in ensuring adequate investment; and/or issues around risk and uncertainty. The housing market is susceptible to many of these problems, particularly because of the contractual relationship between landlord and tenant and because it is difficult to adjust supply rapidly in the face of changing demand.”
“Regulation may also be introduced for reasons of equity and distribution. In particular because housing is both costly and a necessity of life, regulation may be introduced to make housing more secure and affordable. In these circumstances there will often be a tension between helping tenants and protecting returns to landlords, and an emphasis on the former can result in lower investment and increasing pressure on rents. In this environment it is often necessary to introduce other subsidies or forms of provision such as social housing where market returns are not required.”
TWENTY years ago, South Africa had finally stepped out of economic and political isolation. The elections had been won by a democratically-elected government, and parliament was busy drafting a document which would become the nation’s constitution and Bill of Rights. Then, with the exception of a few multinational resource companies such as Anglo American, very few listed companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange were global.
One of the crowning achievements of the Mbeki administration perhaps, was to create the conditions necessary for local South African companies to diversify and expand overseas, resulting in a dividend windfall for investors and creating international giants of which we can certainly be proud.
Here are few of the public companies:
Pick ‘n Pay
These are just some of the listed companies repatriating profits back to South Africa. They help to stabilise an otherwise underperforming market. At the current exchange rate, the net asset value of these shares rises whenever the currency devalues, representing a windfall for those invested in the stock in Rands. After pronouncements about the economy by Minister Nene, will the inward-looking Zuma administration take time out to congratulate South Africa’s global players in what would otherwise be an isolated economic system, economically dependent upon the sub-region for trade.
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INCOME equalisation is a scheme which allows workers and professionals who are eligible taxpayers to even out fluctuations in income by spreading their gross income from year to year.
In Western Australia a voluntary income equalisation fund targeted at farmers, fishers and foresters helps to balance periods affected by seasonal agricultural work.
In similar categories of work, an equalisation fund makes sense, since the benefits of averaging out yearly income outweigh the short term gains to be made from seasonal contracts.
Part of the problem of agriculture and fisheries workers dependency on farmers and the fishing industry, who in turn only rely on workers and labour part of the year, is the insecurity inherent to the industry.
The money contributed to the equalisation fund is reinvested and earns interest which is then paid out to the recipient in the form of a dividend.
In South Africa, workers affected by seasonal changes could use the fund to guarantee income in the off-season.
In other categories of work, income equalisation could even out differences in salaries, since not all companies pay the same wage for the same amount of labour.
Examples of activities that would qualify for income equalisation include:
- animal husbandry
- dairy farming
- grain and seed growing
- market gardening
- fruit growing
- poultry farming
- vegetable growing
Income equalisation should be seen as an efficient means of guaranteeing stability in the labour market, and like unemployment insurance, there are many benefits to be had from collective bargaining in a voluntary labour economy.