The writer says even if the Treasury’s independence and SA’s investment-grade credit status are maintained and economic growth improves, a major historic challenge appears to have been provoked. Picture: SUPPLIED
The writer says even if the Treasury’s independence and SA’s investment-grade credit status are maintained and economic growth improves, a major historic challenge appears to have been provoked. Picture: SUPPLIED

WITH President Jacob Zuma apparently intent on continuing to drag the ANC down the long road of political decline, it is time for the DA to start devising strategies for rescuing our country from the economic mess we are likely to be in when it finds itself in power after the 2019 national elections.

In suggesting this, I do not have in mind some grand new development plan. We have had enough of those. And our political discourse has been polluted by more than enough abstract ideological debates that have nothing to do with the realities of people’s lives.

No, we have entered an era of coalition politics, so it is time to start thinking in practical terms of collaboration rather than sterile haggling over yesterday’s ideas.

For a start, I believe the DA should start giving serious thought to the merits of establishing a government of national unity should it win the 2019 election. It may well find itself emerging as the strongest party but still short of the 50%-plus-one required to rule on its own.

In that case, a coalition partner would be necessary, but I am suggesting a full-blown GNU (government of national unity), including one or two specialists from the business community, to get what by then will be a badly run-down economy back on its feet.

We will need to reunite the country and marshal all our resources to recover. And the natural coalition partner in such circumstances will not be the EFF, but what is left of the ANC after it has been purged of its Zupta elements.

With our trade union structure in a state of shambles, this is also the time to consider establishing an altogether new structure on the lines of the German co-determination system. This has both shareholders and workers represented on company boards of directors, and has helped give Germany and the Benelux countries, which also use the system, the richest economies in Europe.

I strongly believe a modern economy like ours needs a climate in which conflicts are settled through dialogue and co-decisions, rather than by confrontation and force.

But the most critical issues facing us are unemployment and inequality, which together are threatening the entire future of this country.

To deal with them will require a high level of imagination to bring together the interests of both rich and poor, for ultimately their interests are interlinked.

I know of no way to create jobs in any country other than through investment, domestic and foreign, in the private sector, to increase productivity and generate national wealth.

Governments can’t create jobs, except through the public service. Its main job is to create the services that the people, particularly the poor, need: housing, public transport, electricity, water, free education, a national health service, roads, railways, bridges and seaports.

And the only way it can get the money to provide those facilities and services is through taxation of the private sector. It is therefore in government’s interest to encourage investment and do all it can to help business function smoothly.

Without a strong private sector to provide that tax revenue, we cannot have the services the people need. So the interests of the two come together.

Why on earth these simple equations elude the ideologists, and even the more sensible among us, baffles me.

But perhaps the single most important strategy the DA can start putting together, and even start implementing in the big metros it now controls, is the simple expedient of giving all our black people, who have been dispossessed for so long, the houses they are living in.

Give them those properties for free, whether they be RDP houses, rural huts or squatter shacks — and give them the title deeds to attest to their legal possession of those assets.

This in itself would amount to a massive economic revolution, pumping millions of rand into the hands of the poorest of our people, at no cost whatever to the state, for it is all either state or municipal land.

It would enable millions of poor people to leverage themselves into the national economy, from which they have long been excluded and kept in the basement of what former president Thabo Mbeki once likened to a double-storey house with no stairway.

The EFF makes a huge fuss about the redistribution of land to the masses. This is fatuous stuff. They are thinking of agricultural land, which indeed was seized from black people in the 18th and 19th centuries, but peasant agriculture is no longer a viable proposition. Today farming is increasingly becoming agribusiness, to maintain the food supplies needed for our 55.9-million people.

Urban land, in cities and towns across the country, where the vast majority of our people live and struggle to survive, is the land that is both needed and available.

Give it to them, along with whatever homes are built on it. These are valuable assets that can change the lives of poor people. The same applies in the former Bantustans, where 18-million live, often in houses they have built at their own cost, but which they don’t own because it is state land vested in the hands of traditional leaders, who rule the roost there.

It is a wicked system, inherited from apartheid when the regime of those days used those selfsame chiefs as their Gauleiters to enforce the system on their hapless people.

By all means, let their chiefs be well-cared for in their palaces, like constitutional monarchs elsewhere in the world, but don’t let them deprive their people — especially the women — of their property and basic human rights as full citizens of this democracy.

• I was delighted to find myself included in a list of "Journalists of a Particular Generation", singled out for special mention by Iqbal Surve in full-page advertisements published in all his daily newspapers of the Independent group last Thursday.

The advertisement was actually a diatribe against all of us for not fully appreciating Dr Surve’s contribution to South African journalism, but I felt honoured anyway because I didn’t realise this great man followed my writings so avidly. And, hey, I know he is a great man because he has told us so himself.

I also felt proud of my inclusion because that "particular generation" of South African journalists of the English-language press were collectively acclaimed throughout the world for rigorously exposing the evils of apartheid during those dark years.

But one thing troubles me about the great doctor.

His main objective since taking over the Western Cape’s monopoly of the English-language press has obviously been to demolish the DA in that province.

Given the results of the August 3 municipal elections there, surely a man of such honour should have emulated the noble Brutus and fallen on his sword — or at least his medical scalpel?

Sparks is a former editor of the Rand Daily Mail.