DEAR MR ZUMA, PLEASE DEAL WITH POVERTY
Dear Mr President Elect,
Dear Mr President Elect,
Firstly, I believe it is in order to congratulate you and your party on an election race well run. As for you sir, you have indeed proven to be a formidable fighter. Many had written your political epitaph, but like the phoenix you rose from the proverbial ashes.
South Africans are now waiting with bated breath for your inauguration as the country's fourth democratic president. Given your penchant for merrymaking, May 9 can be expected to be a day of memorable festivities.
One can also not wait to see the court jesters and imbongi as well as despots, megalomaniacs and randy dictators masquerading as African leaders - who will crack the guest list to pay homage to you.
Msholozi, you are ascending South Africa's presidency at an interesting time in both our country's and the world's history. As a leader of this country you are faced with an increasingly restless constituency that feels 15 years of democracy has not really delivered tangibles.
Globally you are faced with one of the world's worst financial crises. The challenge you face is to deal with the impact of this financial crisis on your government's policies.
How you do this will eventually determine whether the poor in South Africa are doomed to join the estimated 53 million people around the world who will fall deeper into poverty in 2009 as a result of the global recession.
Knowing you, I suspect your answer to these questions will be that "the ANC is a collective - no individual determines ANC policy".
Well and fair Msholozi, but you are the chief executive of both the ANC and the country. This means that the buck stops with you.
As a leader you are expected to lead, which does not mean you should become a dictator. A good leader - which I think you are - is one who consults but also gives direction.
Talking about leadership, there is this niggling issue of your always trying to say things that will please everybody you interact with.
Sometime last year during your excursions as the ANC's new president you visited the community of Mitchells Plain in Cape Town. Members of this crime-ridden community called for the reinstatement of the death penalty.
One would have expected that, as leader of a party that has designed and endorsed the Constitution of this country, you could explain to the community that the death penalty was unconstitutional. You would even have gone further to explain why it is unconstitutional. You could have proffered alternatives to the death penalty as crime-fighting mechanisms.
Instead, you took the easy way out and said the matter should be discussed further.
You have gone on record as assuring corporate South Africa that there will be no major changes to economic policy. On the other hand, during its election campaign the ANC came up with a manifesto that points to more state intervention.
The ANC went further to talk about decent jobs and pay. The question is: who is providing indecent jobs and low wages? Corporate South Africa, of course.
There have been suggestions that if you want to address the needs of your constituency, learn from what is happening in Latin America, including countries such as Bolivia and Venezuela.
This is the only region in the world where inequality has declined. Contrary to global trends, nine countries in this region are experiencing declining poverty rates, notably over the past six years.
According to a recent report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean countries, they achieved this by raising wages of the poorest and reducing earnings of the richest.
"Changes in the structure of income distribution between 2002 and 2007 have significantly narrowed the gap between the groups at the extreme ends of the spectrum, both by increasing the poorer groups' share of total income and by lowering that of the highest income households," said the report.
The most notable reductions (between 36 percent and 41 percent, respectively) were recorded in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Significant improvements were also observed in Bolivia, Brazil and Nicaragua, where both indicators fell by about 30 percent, the report revealed.
These developments should say one thing to you sir: if your government wants to deal with poverty and inequalities, it cannot be business as usual and corporate South Africa should hear that from you.
Ido Rafalala Lekota
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