Is South Africa currently moving into a revolutionary phase?
This was the question that recently followed from USB Executive Development’s (USB-ED) regular We Read For You
presentation in which the essence of Emeritus Professor of Economics Sampie Terreblanche’s book, Lost in Transformation, was unpacked by Prof André Roux, director of the Institute for Futures Research, situated at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).
The book traces the evolution of the present crisis facing the country, beginning with the examination of the global political and economic context of the 1980s, focusing particularly on the period 1986 to 1990 and then goes back the 1650s, tracing political-economic developments up to 2012.
The author unmasked the manoeuvres and backroom strategies of manipulation devised by American and British transnational corporations in collaboration with the former Soviet regime. The book also examines the steps towards the negotiated settlement and the birth of the new democracy in 1994.
About the chances of a revolution in South Africa Prof Roux said that one cannot really say. It will also be wrong to say that it is not a possibility - one should never say never.
“We should rather try to look for the fundamental reasons for the current turbulence, unrest, xenophobia and the defacing of statutes and what is underlining it. In some ways Prof Terreblanche’s book gives us good clues.
“It is poverty, unemployment and income distribution.”
Over the past 20 years the income of the middle classes and the rich has grown more than that of the poor. Everyone is a bit better off, but some are more better off than others. It is not so much about the absolute figures of income, but the relative income gap.
“The rich are getting much more richer, while the poor are only getting slightly better off. But it is the gap that is getting bigger and is presenting the problem. This brought about 20 years of frustration and people will at some stage start looking for a scapegoat.”
There is also leadership uncertainties – a leadership vacuum might be a bit of a strong word – and possibly at government and corporate level.
About the possibility of a revolution, Prof Roux believes that the country does have enough resilience and goodwill for it not to happen, although there might be more turbulences. All that it says is that that the honeymoon of 1994 is now finally over.
The SA economy has grown somewhat since 2000, but unfortunately people have started borrowing and began to live beyond their means with savings that are very low.
“During the good times expenditure was financed with borrowings. Now the good times are not so good anymore and it is catching up with us.”
Our labour market is also dysfunctional. We have 6 million people unemployed that tells us that that the labour market is not working.
“Revolution is a very strong word, but never say never. Rather expect the unexpected.”
Our constitution is an important hallmark and the democratic institutions are firmly entrenched in the country. As long as they remain independent and autonomous, we will be fine.