Phumlani Majozi on three critical issues ActionSA should deal with at its policy conference
An open letter to Herman Mashaba
28 April 2023
Dear Mr. Mashaba,
After hearing that your political party Action South Africa (ActionSA) will hold its inaugural policy conference in September this year, I thought I should write to you to outline the issues that are of greatest concern to me with respect to South Africa.
Before I delve into the specifics of my concerns, let me first congratulate you on your political party. Judging by the outcomes of the 2021 local government elections, your party has potential in South Africa’s political arena.
Over the years, I have argued that South Africa is an opportunity, given the challenges it faces. As citizens, we have an opportunity to reshape South Africa’s post 1994 history. With your political movement, you’ve begun the process of reshaping South Africa’s history. Thank you
South Africa is at a crossroads. The dire socio-economic state of the country requires that South Africans bring in new, competent leadership. Bringing in new people to govern, is now a matter of urgency.
To reboot South Africa, and make it one of the most adorable countries in the world, the following issues, in no particular order, are what we must focus on. And I hope these three issues will be discussed at your policy conference.
Issue 1: A national economy in tatters
Our economy is not growing at a rate enough to drastically reduce the very high unemployment rates. According to the latest projections by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), South Africa’s economy will underperform Sub-Saharan Africa and emerging markets this year and next year.
South Africa's economic problems, as many economists including the Governor of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) Lesetja Kganyago have said, are structural. These structural problems are, the repressive regulatory environment, the energy crisis, anti-growth tax policy, education challenges, failing state owned enterprises (SOEs).
What this then means is that to address these problems, we must adopt structural reforms. And embarking on structural reforms requires competent, fearless leadership that is prepared to make unpopular decisions. I believe you possess that kind of leadership.
On taxes, South Africa has one of the highest tax burdens in the emerging markets. Our tax rates remain high, even in contrast to some of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Having high taxes, or increasing taxes, is not a good policy. High taxes repress economic growth. Hence, I hope that the outcomes of your policy conference will advocate for tax cuts, which will help stimulate South Africa’s economy.
A wave of privatisations is what South Africa needs as state owned enterprises continue to fail, with millions of rands wasted. You can learn a lot from Margaret Thatcher when it comes to privatisations. When Thatcher was Prime Minister of Britain in the 1980s, privatisation was one of her major policies.
We face an energy crisis because we do not have a stronger energy supply market. The governing elite chose not to create a thriving energy supply market, and now we are here, living with blackouts that are destroying businesses and jobs.
Angola, here in Africa, is in the process of privatising some of its SOEs, which sets a good example in the African continent.
We also need more deregulation, accompanied by the scrapping of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). BEE has enriched the black elite, and has done nothing for the poor. It’s also a divisive program that must be rejected in South Africa. We must have programs that address the needs of the poor, and such programs must not be race-based. Any poor South African of any colour must benefit from those anti-poverty programs.
Addressing structural problems I have outlined above is what will get South Africa on the right footing. I hope that your policies will advocate for minimum, efficient government.
Issue 2: Weak law and order
The second issue that I hope will be discussed at your policy conference, is South Africa’s crime crisis. Crime has tarnished South Africa's image around the world. In 2013, former United States President Donald Trump said, “I really like Nelson Mandela but South Africa is a crime ridden mess that is just waiting to explode-not a good situation for the people!”. Trump was still a private citizen then. Some people got upset at his comments. But you see the thing is, he was spot on. South Africa is a “crime ridden mess”.
I now count up to four, the number of my relatives who were murdered here in South Africa. South Africa's homicide rate is shocking even by global standards.
The latest crime statistics show that South Africa's murder rate is now highest in 20 years. Last week, it was shocking to hear of the murder and mutilation of two children in Soweto. I thank you for offering a R50,000 reward to whoever finds the killers of the kids.
And then, same week, there was Pietermaritzburg, in my home province KwaZulu-Natal, where the entire family including teenagers was gunned down.
Mr. Mashaba, we cannot live like this. Poorer countries do not have these terrifying levels of crime. A gun has been pointed my way two times in Johannesburg. There has to be drastic measures to reduce crime in South Africa. The reduction can only happen if we abandon leniency to criminals. We need a government that will wage a war against criminals and remove them from our communities.
You can learn a lot about fighting criminals from the President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele.
El Salvador has been known for having the highest homicide rates in the world. When Bukele came into power in June 2019, he waged a war against gangs that were running his country and murdering people. Guess what? His war has been a success. Last year, murder declined by 57% in El Salvador.
Bukele’s approach on the fight against crime is what South Africa needs given the disturbing levels of violent crime in the country. I hope anti-crime methods similar to those of Bukele, will be discussed at the Action SA conference in September.
I know the death penalty will be on the agenda, because you have already been talking about it for some time now, and you’ve written on why you want it brought back in South Africa. Good!
It’s mind-boggling to me that a country with such high rates of violent crime does not have capital punishment.
Now some people will attack you on your views on capital punishment, and say that you are barbaric and that capital punishment does not work. That is false. As economist Thomas Sowell once said, the death penalty does deter the killer from killing again.
In his research, Nobel economist Gary Becker found that the death penalty works. Research by economist Isaac Ehrlich also came to the same conclusion, more than once. Economist Stephen K. Layson also concluded that the death penalty works. Hence, Mr. Mashaba, stand by your views and values, most South Africans will be behind you.
Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of Singapore, understood very well that to develop Singapore from poverty to riches, he would have to be intolerant of crime. Hence, Lee Kuan Yew punished criminality severely. This country needs its own Lee Kuan Yew who will save it. You can be our Lee Kuan Yew.
South Africans are tired of crime, and most would support you on your positions on the fight against criminality. People want stronger law and order.
Issue 3: Fatherlessness
Families are broken in South Africa, and that's very bad for our society. Studies have shown that the nuclear family is crucial for economic development.
South Africa has a serious problem of broken families, fatherlessness. More than 60% of children are not growing up with their fathers. When you breakdown these statistics by race you find that only 31.7% of black children live with their fathers in South Africa. Compare this to 51.3% for Colored’s, 86.1% for Asian/Indian and 80.2% for Whites.
The stats on black children growing up without their fathers should unsettle us all. A great deal of research has been done around the world on the impact of fatherlessness on societies. That research shows that children who grow up without fathers are more likely to go astray in life. Boys are more likely to become criminals and end up in jail, and girls are more likely to fall pregnant in their teens. Both boys and girls are also more likely to drop out of school. Disaster!
I hope this issue of fatherlessness will be discussed at your policy conference and that your organisation will come up with some ways to address it. It needs to be in the public dialogue.
All the best for your conference, Mr. Mashaba. I repeat, South Africa is at a crossroads, South Africa is an opportunity. I am glad that you have jumped into the ring, in an effort to exploit this opportunity and reshape our nation's history.