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.