When Sébastien de Place, president of the Foreign Trade Advisors for France in South Africa, warned the government last week of the risk to foreign business investments in South Africa posed by the country’s fundamental economic challenges, one of the most revealing – and most reckless – responses came from within the governing African National Congress (ANC) itself.
As we pointed out in a statement released last week, few South Africans need reminding of the importance of, for example, energy stability, logistics efficiencies, port competitiveness, anti-corruption measures, and improved investor visa processes.
It comes as no surprise that these should be among the pressing concerns of foreign investors.
They are among the issues on which the IRR has continuously put forward solutions to ensure economic growth.
And, as De Place suggested in warning that other African countries are fast outstripping South Africa on these key measures of economic progress and investor confidence, these are issues that are central to our global competitiveness.
Yet, in a revealing comment on social media, the ANC once again placed itself on the side of the enemies of economic growth and opportunity – this time not through the comprehensive failures of governments under ANC control, but through one of its spokespersons in Gauteng, the province that has long been the economic engine of South Africa.
Tshikani Reckson Hasani, spokesperson for the ANC in the Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipality, home to South Africa’s most important airport, OR Tambo International Airport, described French companies as ‘replaceable entities’. Hasani went further, calling for the immediate closure of the French embassy to South Africa.
Bear in mind that the European Union is one of South Africa’s most important trade destinations, with France being South Africa’s second largest trading partner in the EU and our leading trade partner in Africa.
Here, then, is another instance of the ANC exposing its intense antipathy to the very idea of economic growth. The concerns raised by De Place are of inarguable validity. For the ANC to respond with such ignorant arrogance as to dismiss foreign investors in South Africa as replaceable and call for the idiotic severance of diplomatic ties with a key trading partner is more evidence that the ANC has firmly sided with the pro-poverty forces in South Africa.
The stark choice emerging in this country is one between poverty and growth. South Africa is rapidly becoming the battleground of those who want economic growth and socio-economic upliftment through jobs and opportunities and skills development, and the peddlers of poverty.
It is somewhat surprising that the ANC would be so blatant about its aggressive pro-poverty ideology, but the honesty is to be welcomed.
South Africans, especially those in business, must now face up to the realities of the policy crisis in our country. At the heart of every economic failure we see cadres, crooks, cronies, and comrades putting greed, corruption, state capture, and reckless pro-poverty ideology above what is best for the people of this country.
Over many years, harking back to the darkest days of apartheid, the state has seized more and more power to interfere in the economy, tax more, spend irresponsibly, mismanage SOEs crucial to manufacturing,g and getting goods and services to market. And all of this is made possible by the kleptocratic restructuring of public procurement as a cadre-rigged looting scheme through failed policies like BEE, which has morphed into ‘blatant elite enrichment’.
It would be a waste of time calling for the ANC to act against Cllr. Hasani. He is, in fact, to be lauded for presenting the beliefs of his party so clearly and honestly.
What the IRR is, however, calling for is for South Africans, especially those in business, to wake up and understand the antagonism of the pro-poverty forces in South Africa.
Not the only choice
We are months away from a vital national and provincial election. But that is not the only choice facing South Africans. We have the choice every single day of whether we continue empowering the policies that have brought the country to its knees and vandalised important trade and economic relationships and capacities.
Every day the business and corporate leaders of this country go along with the pro-poverty policies of ‘blatant elite enrichment’, with the paper-thin attempts of the President to bluff his way out of the shame of his party’s enormous failures, with the deceitful narrative that constructive ‘reforms’ are imminent, with the lazy and uncritical narrative that corruption is the disease rather than a symptom of the pro-poverty disease of state economic control – every day we as a country fail to call out the pro-poverty poison killing the aspirations of the people is another day closer to the type of poverty that will make the socio-economic destruction caused by apartheid seem like sound economic policy.
Enough is enough. The mask has slipped. The excuses no longer work. The platitudes of social compacts no longer hide the stench of failure. Those who align themselves willingly with the peddlers of poverty will get what they deserve: the brutal judgement of history and the well-earned label coined by Moeletsi Mbeki – ‘architects of poverty’.
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