Economy built on Ubuntu is possible

26 April 2020

The stranglehold of Covid-19 on our economy has given us a glimpse of what the future might look like – and it is red!

The government has taken impres­sive steps to save the long-suffering economy. In this time of great economic crisis, everybody is alive to the fact that we are our brother’s keeper.

No one is looking at capital to rescue us from the yoke of this virus. It is the government, and yes, big government, that is rising to the occasion.

It’s as if we needed this virus to clap us back to reality; that we must not leave the downtrodden to fend for them­selves, that a helping hand is not cre­ating a dependent citizenry – but it is about being a caring government. It is in time of great crisis and deep economic pain that a new world can be a reality.

The galvanised energy in the coun­try to ensure no one goes to bed hungry – that no worker is punished for a cri­sis not of their making has given some of us a room to dream – albeit even if it’s just wishful thinking. I envision a future where there is a resurgence in progressivism, where our economy moves from predatory capitalism and embraces the tenets of socialism.

I do not by all means imagine a polit­ical future akin to China, but a democ­racy where every citizen, particularly black youth, is given an equal opportu­nity to succeed and support to innovate.

Capitalism has its place in the South African economy, but this crisis has taught us that we can use both mone­tary and fiscal policy to pursue the elu­sive dream of a better life for all.

It is only when the government inter­venes with great vigour in the econo­my that people get to realise their true potential, where profits don’t come at the cost of jobs and livelihoods. Chanc­es are we will lose this current socialist vigour once the crisis has subsided – I certainly hope not.

Recent history has taught us that cap­ital cannot save itself from ruin – even when it is of its own making. In 2008, the George W Bush administration and later the Barack Obama government bailed out that country’s big banks and car manufacturers to the tune of tril­lions of US dollars

These banks and car manufacturers came back stronger and today still sit at the apex of the US economy and, by extension, the global economy.

In this crisis, the comeback kid should be the working class and the middle class. A new economy, with South Af­rican characteristics of ubuntu, must emerge where job creation and taking care of the weak in society is an engen­dered business ethos.

Former president Thabo Mbeki, in his Nelson Mandela Memorial Lecture delivered at Wits in 2006, best encapsu­lated the South Africa of my dreams. “I believe I know this as a matter of fact, that the great masses of our country everyday pray that the new South Af­rica that is being born will be a good, a moral, a humane and a caring South Africa, which, as it matures, will pro­gressively guarantee the happiness of all its citizens,” Mbeki said.

This South Africa, with the right poli­cies and less corruption, is within grasp.


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