What to do in South Africa?

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Pali Lehohla

CATS don’t devour their kittens often, but when they do you should know that they made a very difficult decision in coming to this conclusion and taking these steps.

General statistician Risenga Maluleke published the results of the first quarter labor force survey (QLFS) this week. Compared to 2008, the proportion of 15 to 34-year-olds employed has declined proportionally and in absolute terms in favor of their parents. The mother cat devours the kittens.

When I, as general statistician, emphasized in 2016 that the current generation of young people performed worse than their parents in terms of educational and employment outcomes, then-President Thabo Mbeki said we must be a strange nation. It shouldn’t be the fact of being weird, however, but what to do, he concluded. However, the question remains, what should be done to change the situation.

Scenarios are important. South Africa is not new to scenarios. These include Shell’s 1992 Mont Fleur scenarios, which broke the deadlock in negotiations and, in particular, the economic path; the 2003 future memories that led the Second and Third Governments to switch gear from Gear to Asgisa; the future we chose of 2008, which unfortunately has been abandoned by all subsequent governments; and now the scenarios of Indlulamithi, which did not attract the attention of the current government.

Scenarios are important even if not all decisions are made based on scenario thinking. Among a series of monumental decisions Madiba made, two key decisions ahead of the 1994 election provide clues as to our own ongoing crisis, political hiatus, and the resulting seismic negative impact we are experiencing on a daily basis.

Initially it was about the murder of Chris Hani, he decided the election date and confiscated the agenda as de facto president. Second, after receiving the Mont Fleur scenarios from Shell, Mandela made a decision – the deadlock in the then deadlocked negotiations on a post-apartheid political order must be broken.

For example, one commentator said Mont Fleur helped change the ANC’s economic thinking and avert economic disaster. This paved the way for Gear, a much controversial and often maligned political stance. Scenarios are important.

Mbeki also moved from Gear in 2004 after the Memories of the Future scenarios were presented by the government’s policy coordination and advisory services. The President introduced Asgisa. For five years, South Africa had average annual economic growth of 4.8 percent and unemployment fell from 30 percent to 22 percent. If South Africa had continued on the Asgisa path with a development-oriented macroeconomic framework, we might be on a different path today.

The results of the QLFS show how important education is for employment. The unemployment rate of university graduates is about 9% of the white unemployment rate. Unemployment among blacks is four times higher than that of whites at 36 percent. So education is indeed important.

As Ratshitanga argues, we are all in favor of citizens’ contribution to development. But when Gift of the Givers had to drill a borehole in a public mother and child hospital, government dysfunction took on monumental and numbing proportions.

The President should spend time with the Statistician General to understand the QLFS results. It says it all. The mother cat devours the kittens.

The Indlulamithi scenarios tell us that we are in Gwara-gwara, a society in a false new dawn, a society of enclaves.

Is South Africa awake, hears and sees? What should I do?

Dr. Pali Lehohla is the former South Africa general statistician and former head of Statistics South Africa. Meet him at www.pie.org.za and @ Palilj01

* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the IOL or front pages


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