‘Wit gevaar’ fails to explain why 70 000 workers are striking

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So, Gwede Mantashe, the secretary general of the ANC, huffs and puffs about white foreign nationals in our midst who are working to destabilise South Africa’s economy.

If this feeble, tired “wit” version of the “rooi gevaar” isn’t the result of comrade Mantashe smoking his socks, perhaps Keith Khoza, the ANC spokesman who is never at a loss to find someone to blame for yet another self-inflicted embarrassment, could do better than his lame comment that “foreigners come here and defend the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s (Amcu)”.

Asked exactly where these evil, white subversives come from, Khoza suggested that the questioner go back to comrade Mantashe. We don’t need to do that. The evil ones are hiding in plain sight.

Dick Forslund, a Swedish-born socialist economist, who has contributed numerous articles to this and other newspapers since 2012, works at the Alternative Information and Development Centre in Cape Town, drew our attention when the centre did some number crunching in support of Amcu claims.

Even more scary is another Swede, the diminutive Liv Shange, a fluent Zulu-speaking activist also resident in South Africa for more than a decade, and married to Xolani Shange, a South African socialist. Both are members of the local Democratic Socialist Movement, which spawned the Workers and Socialist Party (Wasp), which contested the recent elections without much success.

By playing the “reds under the bed” card, or should that not be the “reds in the cabinet” card, the secretary-general falls back to the South African default position of blaming foreigners (some call it xenophobia) with a touch of racism, to explain why 70 000 South African platinum mineworkers have chosen to strike and endure nearly five months of privation in their bid to secure an entry-level wage of R12 500 a month.

What makes that figure a holy grail is not the machinations of “foreign forces” but the rather touching belief fostered by Amcu that the 34 mineworkers shot dead by police at Marikana laid down their lives so that their brother workers could earn at least R12 500.

A suggestion to the secretary-general: South Africans do not need the help of foreigners to destabilise key industries and undermine the economy, they excel at doing it to themselves.

Economy

The economy is not producing at full potential, which is why the country is on the brink of a devastating recession that will plunge South Africans further into financial despair. The plan should be to get the economy producing at a short-term momentum. The economy’s potential growth rate is about 3.5 percent but unless electricity constraints are sorted out it will continue its downward spiral.

Isaac Matshego, a Nedbank economist, believes the issue of the country’s labour market policy should be revisited with the structures of the labour market being redrawn to suit the needs of the economy.

South Africa has a two-tier economy of high skills and low skills with very little in the middle to accommodate semi-skilled workers.

The aim is to create jobs at the lower end of the labour market and look at the developmental needs of the economy.

“The question is, do we go the China route and cut wages to create jobs for the lower-end labour market or go the Cosatu route where workers are paid more and that money finds its way back into the economy?” he asks.

Both the private sector and the government need to roll up their sleeves and steer the sinking ship towards prosperity for if the status quo remains, the country will burn to the detriment of all.

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Peter DeIonno (a white foreign national) and Ayanda Mdluli.


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