Wed. Aug 21st, 2019

Thuma Mina: All South Africans must be called

human rights day south africaOur diversity shouldn’t be seen as a threat to national unity and dynamism; it should be seen as an asset.

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When President Cyril Ramaphosa first took to the stage citing late Hugh Masekela’s song – Thuma Mina – and probably raising its ranking in music charts to higher levels than it might have enjoyed while Masekela was still alive and helping it penetrate new market sectors – I honestly raised my fist in the air and shouted, “At last; a President for all!”

My raised fist wasn’t a mere traditional “black power” salute; it was a “citizen power” salute. I raised it thinking of several friends and others I haven’t met in person, but who all happen to also be South African and white, who had begun to feel that South Africa under Zuma didn’t want them anymore and would not be a safe place for their children.  

During Zuma’s presidency, especially from the time Bell Pottinger got busy delivering on its lucrative, yet divisive, Zupta campaign in South Africa, levels of nervousness were rising in parts of the local white community.

South Africans, unite!

The advent of the BLF and rising anti-White and Indian racist rhetoric by the EFF did not help the situation. Increasing numbers of people were wondering if there would still be room for their children in the country and were worried that the time had probably come earlier than they had predicted for them to leave the country.

In African terms, South Africa would not be setting any precedence, of course. It would simply be falling in line with many horrible things that happened since the early years of African independence from colonial rule, in the early 1960s,  things that led to mass departures of Whites, Indians and Asians from some of the countries.

We now know that many White South Africans have since left, taking whatever skills they had and, not less importantly, the taxes they could have continued to contribute to a fiscus that needs them desperately, even though many – driven either by misplaced pride, ignorance, or both, routinely pretend that it doesn’t matter.

The usual refrain one hears from such quarters is “good riddance; let them go because they do not love our country anyway and are not committed to working with us to make it recover from the Zupta madness and rise up again”. There is no empathy.

People who respond as described above to reported departures consistently fail to understand the opportunity cost to the country by connecting the dots between an eroding tax base and government’s rising inability to deliver services to the people of South Africa, especially the poor who are still waiting to see the sunshine in the part of the country where their tiny RDP houses stand.

We need to be real

Now, before I get misunderstood, let me
state clearly that I do not consider taxes contributed by white tax payers and
the skills they have more sacrosanct that those found in other race groups. But
let’s not fool ourselves by getting lost in self-defeating political
correctness and denial. Going only by the cries we hear from left wing groups,
including trade unions and unemployed black youth whenever they shout slogans
such as “Whites earn more”; “Whites possess all the wealth”; “Whites control
the bulk of the means of production”; “Whites own the economy”, etc. then,
surely, it should make sense to conclude that the contribution by the same
Whites to the country’s tax base constitutes a rather big percentage that
should be encouraged to stay; not chased away?

Given that South Africa has a great, progressive, tax system wherein the more one earns the more one is taxed, why not let people enjoy their inherited wealth, or work hard, be as wealthy as they can, own massive houses and expensive cars, jewellery, etc. but ensure that they’re taxed fairly and contribute their fair share to government’s revenue collection, instead of hounding them to other countries?

What South Africa needs is to ensure that the right people are employed in the tax service and other government institutions, that the systemic checks and balances are strengthened and that the criminal justice system is empowered – as promised in the recent State of The Nation Address – to play its part without fear, favour, or bias.

B-BBEE can be reformed

Many will probably be angered by this, but there should be an opportunity, 25 years after the end of apartheid – especially after the ten developmental years squandered under Jacob Zuma’s leadership – to find ways to ensure that young South Africans who are white and were born in the past twenty years or so are not forever prejudiced by B-BBEE and Affirmative Action Laws, forcing them to stop seeing their country of birth as a place to consider for their future careers or businesses.

Steps can be taken to stop looking at skin colour as the sole criterion and progressively include criteria such as the income of parents, family wealth, etc. in determining whether a child should receive government funding for studies or whether young adults can benefit from other corrective policies that currently only look at race.  

If we fail to do this, South Africa will miss the opportunity to take advantage of the full wealth of its diverse population to be the best in the region, in Africa and in the world.

Our diversity shouldn’t be seen as a threat to national unity and dynamism; it should be seen as an asset. But it will not bear the fruit it could while those leading the country continue to be blind to the potential that lies in front of them, right here in SA.

Before we call Italians to bring us solutions for some of our ailing SOEs, especially Eskom, we could, for instance, consider the many engineering skills that once made Eskom great and built Denel, Transnet, Metrorail, the erstwhile Iscor, etc. but that are sitting inadequately used to play a part again, alongside the great black skills that have been built in various sectors over the past 25 years.

Since we live in a globalised and connected world, there should of course be room for skills from other parts of the world, but let the Thuma Mina clarion call sound here at home first and create opportunities for all South Africans to feel that this can still be a home for all, current and future generations, and irrespective of skin colour, ethnicity, religion or not, gender identity, etc.

All it will take is good leadership with a Vision; one that will not make us all lose a potentially bright tomorrow because of unhelpful hang-ups over our divisive yesterday.

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