The call by Professor Sampie Terreblanche for whites to make sacrifices due to their privileged position can be understood in light of South Africa’s looming crisis (“Whites must make sacrifices to uplift SA’s poor”, Business Report, August 14).
He maintains that because whites still enjoy a privileged position in South Africa they need to be required (forced?) to make appropriate sacrifices to uplift the poor who form half of the population.
If there is not sufficient penitence and sharing by whites it may bode ill for them in the future. The history of white privilege is well known. Prior to 1994 South Africa faced a civil war that would have destroyed the economy to no one’s benefit.
A negotiated settlement defused the crisis. Most whites continued to enjoy their historical privileges. They conceded political power but not their economic strength. The “conquered” whites did not roll over in defeat in 1994 as anticipated by the “conquerors”. Now, 20 years on, there looms a new social crisis fed this time by the unfulfilled expectations of the masses who had been led to believe they were entering the “promised land” in 1994.
The political promise of “a better life for all” has not arrived for too many. Hence the growing frustration and resentment. If the situation explodes, the economy will come apart to the detriment of all. Terreblanche seems to believe whites need to play their part in averting this disaster by helping to uplift the poor .
But he must explain what he means by a “sacrifice” that will rectify the imbalance between whites and the masses. Playing on white guilt will not resolve the problem. Does he envisage some form of “guilt” tax? What about the many loyal white South Africans who are, and have been for a long time, actively contributing to the upliftment of the poor through programmes embedded in communities that provide meaningful assistance?
So, who are the whites to which he refers? All or a section? If it is to be a tax then it should not be paid into state funds. There is too much risk that 20 percent to 30 percent will be siphoned off one way or another to the non-poor, who will fiddle the money for self-enrichment.
Let the money be paid to NGOs where there is little or no opportunity of some public servant or politician getting their corrupt fingers on the loot. There is just too much guzzling at the trough with little care for the “poor”. What is it whites must sacrifice to achieve some level of acceptability within South Africa? Must they join the ANC to escape the coming wrath? Many will not join as the ANC is perceived today to be corrupted at the core.
Terreblanche must be specific. It is a bottomless pit. The poor will always be with us. For example, does he believe that 90 percent of currently white-owned farms must be moved to black ownership?
How will he prevent a Zimbabwe situation where 80 percent of the “liberated” farms went to President Robert Mugabe’s cronies and a token number to the peasants. If South Africa implodes where will the poor find relief? Maybe a new Codesa would be acceptable to Terreblanche.
SA of little importance to US, global economy
I read with an increasing degree of sadness the interview with Professor Sampie Terreblanche in Business Report. This poor old chap labours under the sad impression that the US president wakes up each morning thinking about how to handle South Africa in the interests of the US.
South Africa’s gross domestic product is less than 1 percent of the world’s. We are an absolute minnow of little interest to anyone in world power calibrations.
Get over yourself, Prof. The US cares about us as a charity case. He states this, for example: “We are a sub-empire of the American empire.”
Give me a break. If we were to disappear from the face of the Earth tomorrow it would be a very small blip perhaps temporarily affecting some metals and minerals but would, economically, go unnoticed. The Dow Jones index would, believe me, continue as if nothing had happened.
Privileged already surrender their taxes
I know my humble Bachelor’s degree is hugely outranked by Sampie Terreblanche’s BA, MA and PhD, to say nothing of the fact that he is a much-published professor and I am a (once-off) self-published tour guide. Nevertheless, I challenge his view that “whites will have to make a sacrifice. We cannot grow out of this situation.” (“Whites must make sacrifices to uplift SA’s poor”, Business Report, August 14).
I must also say at the outset that Professor Terreblanche and I share the same dream, which is upliftment of the little guys, so there’s no disagreement in the objective, only in the means to achieve it.
Why do I think he is being simplistic? Well, let’s start by laying out the issue in the simplest possible terms.
Terreblanche’s argument is founded on poverty, on the one hand, and financial privilege, on the other. These are both functions of money. Those who generate more than they consume end up financially privileged, those who consume more than they generate languish in poverty. The colour of one’s skin has nothing to do with the issue at all.
Now, let’s take a look at the position of the financially privileged in our society:
Those who are financially privileged are taxpayers. It is these whom Terreblanche believes should be making a sacrifice.
But they are already making a massive sacrifice: they are sacrificing everything that a taxpayer would normally be entitled to expect. The government gives them virtually nothing in return. Thus, the “financially privileged” still have to provide for all the needs of their own families from their after-tax incomes.
I doubt that there is another democratic country in the world where so much is taken from so many with so little given in return. Gone are the days when whites could have three or four children. They are having fewer children of their own in order to pay for the children of others. That is not an insignificant sacrifice.
Terreblanche, among countless others, maintains that trickle-down economics does not work. The money, they say, does not reach the masses. They’re right about that, but they are dead wrong in dismissing the trickle-down process as ineffective. The trickle-down effect does work –but the flow can easily be stopped if a rapacious government sucks up the surplus and leaves nothing to trickle down.
That is what is happening in South Africa (and elsewhere). The government is taking the entire surplus, and then telling the masses that they are poor because the whites aren’t giving enough. Sadly, the masses don’t understand that, once the taxes are collected, the money becomes their money; they are not victims of white stinginess, they are victims of their own government’s greed and incompetence.
Moving on, let’s get highly controversial, and state bluntly that the sacrifices must now come from the ANC and its supporters.
Firstly, the ANC must sacrifice the policy of cadre deployment. We have too many people earning salaries in positions that they are not competent to fill. They are not generating any money, but they are consuming far more than they are worth. And the fact that they are there means that there is no space for the competent people who we desperately need to replace them – if their positions are necessary at all.
The ANC must sacrifice at least part of the holy cow it calls black economic empowerment (BEE). BEE is vital to this country, but it must be focused entirely on those who are really in need of upliftment, and whose upliftment will benefit society as a whole.
The ANC must forego its penchant for interfering in the economy. Economics is a natural science. Interventions need to work with economic forces, not against them. Many of the government’s regulations are futile and utterly stupid, however lofty their intentions may be. It’s hypocritical indeed to call on whites to make sacrifices when it is the government itself that is putting a wheelclamp on the economy.
As the for the masses themselves, there is not much that they can do, other than to demand specific performance from the ANC, or vote for someone else. However, there are many thousands who can make sacrifices, and if they won’t, they should be forced to do so – at gunpoint if necessary. If we have an army to deal with enemies from outside or borders, why can’t we apply a proper degree of force to those who attack us from inside our borders?
The hooligans who routinely destroy public property must abandon this as a means of protest, so we can build new stuff instead of having to spend millions on rebuilding old stuff.
The fact that they are poor is no excuse, nor is the fact that they are too stupid to understand how blocking the N1 highway in September results in a petrol price of R13 a litre 10 months later. We don’t allow our children to hold us hostage, and we shouldn’t allow the thug element among the masses to hold us hostage either. I don’t think that requiring them to behave properly and obey the common law is asking too great a sacrifice.
The same observation applies to those who disrupt the productive economy by bringing mines and factories to a standstill. They must also abandon these destructive activities. These so-called “workers” are not sophisticated enough to understand it, but they are actually making a very great sacrifice indeed. They are sacrificing the future of their children, who are going to grow up as poor as they are if we don’t get this country working properly.
We can, and we must, grow out of this situation. But calling on the whites to make further sacrifices is like adding more baggage to an already overladen camel. What is needed now is some sacrifice – behavioural, not financial – from those whose contribution thus far has been far more destructive than it ever was productive.
Atomic power will lift African living standard
This is a comment about Kelvin Kemm’s article published in Business Report on August 7, “Nuclear power is a big opportunity for SA business”.
Up until about 1800, world energy supplies consisted of wood, easily accessible coal, solar heating from change in seasons, wind, hydro and food production, again from the sun. Food production enabled work of all kinds and wars to be fought.
Starting in about 1800 coal, then in about 1900 oil and natural gas, replaced a lot of human and animal muscle power. Large-scale use of fossil fuels helped create the modern world.
Development of nuclear power began in the 1940s and advanced rapidly. Nuclear power has much higher energy density than fossil fuels. This means that nuclear power needs much smaller quantities of fuel and produces much smaller quantities of waste. The safety record and capacity factors of nuclear energy are vastly superior to everything else.
In spite of all the benefits of fossil fuels and nuclear power, special interest groups work continuously around the world to prevent their use and offer no reasonable alternative.
South Africa is in a unique position. It now has well educated nuclear professionals from many cultural backgrounds. The government is very committed to using nuclear energy. South Africa can use these assets to grow the economy to make it a beacon for the world, improve living standards and even develop a base for other economies throughout the African continent. The people of South Africa must not fold to anti-nuclear groups, whether they be supra-national organisations or micro self-centred groups. Those people only want to turn back living standards to what they were centuries ago.
Kemm and South Africa’s energy professionals are the country’s best chance to develop reliable and safe energy policies for far into the future. We wish them and South Africa complete success.
John A hanahan, Dr. Ing.
President of Go Nuclear and President of Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy – USA
Scaremongers miss benefits of nuclear
I strongly endorse Kelvin Kemm’s remarks on the benefits of nuclear power. The poor people of Africa need access to a reliable low-cost supply of electricity to lift them out of poverty and unemployment. Nuclear power can play a large part in this.
For reasons that I cannot understand, the people that believe that carbon dioxide causes dangerous global warming also oppose nuclear power. Yet nuclear power is, by a large margin, the safest and most environmentally friendly of all major forms of power generation.
Although the press called the Fukushima incident a disaster, nobody was killed and nobody will die in the future from radiation. The UN committee on the effects of nuclear radiation has issued a report saying that levels of radiation 200 and more times the radiation allowed from a nuclear power station are harmless.
There are many new designs of nuclear reactor available that are even safer than their already safe predecessors. Some of these are small factory built and sealed units that can be installed quickly to provide a low-cost reliable supply to the grid and to isolated regions for many years.
It is a pity that scaremongering by people who do not understand the technology, the risks of other forms of power generation or the very high cost of wind and solar power, is turning people against nuclear power. As a result of their actions, poor people all over Africa and the developing world will suffer. Their behaviour is inexplicable and inexcusable.
Auckland, New Zealand
Nature is too ruthless for economic model
“With 3.8 billion years of experience, nature has perfected a system whereby all of its citizens are fed, housed, and provided with adequate energy and clean water, while remaining in equilibrium with its surroundings.” Thus wrote your columnist Pierre Heistein on August 15 (“Nature can teach us sustainable economics”), quoting Eban Goodstein, the director for environmental policy at Bard College, who addressed the annual South American Business Forum. Goodstein said: “To truly reach a sustainable economy the world is going to need to model commercial systems on natural systems.”
That would certainly be the ideal approach because, after all, Earth’s natural systems comprise an almost infinite complex of feedback subsystems that collectively achieve stability. But it’s not possible to model this because we would not find nature’s methods acceptable. Nature’s guiding principle is survival of the fittest. In nature, any natural subsystem that flourishes dangerously well is ruthlessly cut back by disease, loss of food resources or the advent of new competition.
Any natural subsystem that cannot compete is ruthlessly done away with. If, say, the natural environment changes, perhaps climatically, affected species are faced with an adapt-or-die option. Nature has already allowed at least 90 percent of historical species to become extinct. Under a nature-modelled economic system, countries like Greece or Ireland that have lost the ability to stand alone would be left to die, perhaps with a remnant population being absorbed by neighbours. Nature doesn’t rescue losers.
Man attempts to interfere with nature, sometimes out of misplaced arrogance, sometimes out of compassion, more often out of disguised greed. But we are not clever enough or caring enough to anticipate the unforeseen downside consequences – silted-up dams, low-population areas artificially enabled to multiply unsustainably, or our atmosphere’s composition incrementally endangered by industry – with no one brave enough or influential enough to go into reverse until the damage amounts to global catastrophe.
We will never be willing to model nature in our economic or any other systems. The best we can do in the meantime is to minimise our interferences.