Pali Lehohla
JOHANNESBURG -  The aspirations of the National Development Plan is to set South Africa on a path towards a developmental state akin to the model of the East Asia Tigers. 

China and Korea grew by 6% over the past six decades. 

However, in this bag were also Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand that experienced growth rates of between 3 percent and 4 percent

South Africa came at about 1% ahead of Venezuela’s 0.4% but lower than Peru and Ecuador amongst this club of laggards.  

As regards the demographic transition which relates to effects of changes in the relative composition of the population for specific age cohorts, South Africa has exhibited patterns that mimic Latin America.  In specific terms of the transition in age structure is the proportionate composition of the age group 15-64 relative to the one below 15 years of age and that above 65.  

When the relative size of the so called the working age group i.e., 15-64 is high then a demographic transition holds promise for a demographic dividend because the proportion of the dependent population has shrunk relative to those who work. 

The Asian Tigers in the 1960s were envious of the growth patterns witnessed in Africa and especially in Ghana. 

South Africa and Korea share a history that in part look similar.  Occupation and discrimination by an occupying force and a demographic transition.   Unlike Singapore which envied Bombay at the beginning of the 1960s, South Africa envies the Asian Tigers and would wish to model itself to ultimately be a developmental state.

Singapore set its goals too low to be like Bombay and the Asian Tigers admiration of the likes of Ghana and Nigeria has come to pass similarly as representing a fast paced passing mirage.  

The state of the state and what we know today suggests that South Africa’s dream of a developmental state is fast paced passing mirage.  

There are some interesting events that significantly illustrate how far apart the reality of practice in South Africa is different from that of South East Asia and that what makes the intoxicating dream drift farther from reality.

Three years ago when the Singapore Airlines pilots went on strike, President Lee Kwan Yew went face to face with them and told them that he will shut the pride of Korea down and rebuild it again without them.  In 65 minutes it was all over.  In Korea when the chairperson owner of the Korean Airline learnt that his daughter had mistreated an airhostess en route New York to Seoul, he fired her and not only that he went on to apologise to the nation for bringing her up badly, and the judge slapped her with a one year prison sentence. 

In South Africa we have the direct opposite, our SAA Board like many state-owned enterprises treated the country’s taxes with impunity, pensioners did not receive their pensions in the coldest months of the year and we caused it with brute insensitivity and obfuscation pile of legalese.  

School children drown in societal abuse and in toilets without personal accountability and consequence. Our state capture and many other missives dramatically illustrate how far apart we are from those we aspire to emulate – the Asian Tigers.  


The now failed national aspiration for a developmental state is replaced by the energy and patriotism sapping nightmare of the state of state capture.   

The legalization of marijuana and prospective arguments for access to alcohol at schools have come at an opportune time and deliver a desperately needed antidote.  We need to calm our nerves.  

Dreams far removed from the hard discipline that accountability exacts for achieving a developmental state.  One that Lembede envisioned sixty eight years ago when he proclaimed “Freedom in Our Lifetime.”

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa.

BUSINESS REPORT