Mmusi Maimane: Here’s how we build a resilient and modern economy that rewards all - Rvpg media

Mmusi Maimane: Here’s how we build a resilient and modern economy that rewards all

On Heritage Day I launched a new political party – Build One South Africa (Bosa) that will appear on the ballot paper in 2024 as an umbrella body to unearth and elect homegrown leadership in communities across the country. After three years on the sidelines, I felt the time was ripe to step back into the arena and play my part in fighting for the country I so dearly love.

I did so because I believe our politics is broken and its citizens are suffering. I return to the arena with greater determination and more vigour than before to fix our politics so that our economy can grow and serve every citizen fairly. 

Building a versatile and modern economy is central to building a cohesive society. The truth is the South African economy still represents a concentrated model with a small political and economic elite benefiting from the majority of the spoils. Here I wish to outline a few ways we could change this pattern and uplift millions of citizens. 

First, a relentless focus on SMMEs and entrepreneurs. We require consultation with SMMEs to understand how regulation aids or inhibits the growth of small businesses and a complete overhaul of the funding of SMMEs is required. Coupled with the provision of policy and infrastructure which supports our local economies, an example is the regional production of energy for consumption where it is produced. And targeted support of the informal economy – micro-enterprise in townships.

Broader consultation with business bodies to understand what aspects of the current labour legislation inhibit employment growth is needed. Particularly what requires reform and how best to introduce incentives to job creation and skills training. We would work together to drive private-public sector job creation which aligns with the skillset of the 10 million unemployed South Africans. 

The strategic relationships within our region and internationally hold powerful potential for economic development. Our relationship with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries must be reformed to create a trading bloc which fosters economic development and growth. By following the Association of Southeast Asian Nations development partnership model, we can conduct a review of the SADC visa process. 

I have engaged energy experts about initiating a process to overhaul our state-owned enterprises – chief amongst them Eskom. It is centred on diversifying our energy supply and incentivising cities to increase procurement of energy from alternative sources. Within five years, the goal is to build an energy grid that encompasses an entire wheel of energy supply, in collaboration with our SADC counterparts. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa has lamented the economic consequences of Covid-19, the KwaZulu-Natal riots of last year and the global economic situation as it pertains to the cost of living. However, he fails to recognise that these occurrences either are borne out of – or demonstrate – the fact that our economy is dual in nature. Some participate and many are left out. Let’s reset this. 

South Africa’s empowerment policies should be redrafted to focus on rewarding the hard quantitative measures of new employment creation, employment maintenance, tax payments and export contributions made by investors. 

We additionally propose the establishment of a jobs and justice fund to which businesses will contribute their empowerment funding and which will be administered by public finance professionals, not politicians. The fund will ensure real empowerment through distribution to real empowerment initiatives, which bridge the gap between power and potential. 

Our country’s public finances are on the brink of collapse, a third of our national budget goes to servicing payments on existing debt. We require a bold financial repurposing effort to direct public funds to vital areas of growth and development.

Currently, the South African government spends R365-billion on social welfare grants. We will ensure that these benefits are retained. Our focus will be on making sure that this money is used stimulate both the rural and township economies by creating local purchasing channels that ensure that social grant money is circulated within local communities and is not extracted by big business. This will entail the distribution of cashless transactional tools across all tax-registered small and micro businesses. These SMMEs will form part of a large government-supported procurement platform. 

Based on a high-level expert-led due diligence exercise, we have identified R500-billion of annual budgeted expenditure that is defrauded by corrupt government officials. We will put an immediate stop to such expenditure, freeing up vital funds for our proposed initiatives. 

Too few individuals and companies pay the overwhelming majority of tax. The South African Revenue Service (SARS) is going some way to remedy this by ensuring a wider net of collection, targeting those who are not paying any or all of the tax which they should be paying. SARS must be equipped and empowered to deliver on its mandate – the body need to be protected from capture and allowed to employ the brightest and best talent that South Africa has to offer. SARS should be an employer of choice for graduating finance professionals. 

To ease the burden on new, mainly black entrants to the economy, we propose a minor tax rebate for those who support family members in what is colloquially termed “black tax”. As a young professional or new job entrant who can show SARS that you directly support family members that were discriminated against by apartheid, you would be eligible for tax rebates.

To support the 12.4 million South Africans who are presently unemployed, immediate avenues into the labour market need to be opened. In this regard we propose a drastically expanded public works programme. Any person of working age who is unemployed should have the option of enrolling for paid community service projects within walking distance of their homes. 

These could be either privately or state administered and range from general clean-ups to community patrols, and assistance on infrastructure repair or construction projects. These public works programmes will pay at the current public works programme rate of around R100 a day and create an opportunity for one day of paid work per week. This initiative would cost the fiscus in the region of R30-billion a year.

In parallel to this initiative, we propose a complementary private sector-led initiative that can create the opportunity for unemployed people to accept employment from a private employer under a similar wage (R100 a day) and health and safety conditions as those of the public works programme.

Young South Africans are particularly impacted by unemployment. We need to assist this sector of our society to become meaningful participants and contributors to the economy and long-term growth of South Africa. 

We propose the introduction of a voluntary national civilian service year that bridges the transition from school into the working world. This year will allow matriculants to enter work-based training in the community healthcare, basic education, or policing fields, gaining valuable work experience while earning a small stipend.

Coalitions are not easy to navigate, but we dare not fear change. Our country will be best served by a change in government and the manner in which we are governed. Build One South Africa will soon present models of how to best manage coalitions and build a future for all our citizens. 

Mmusi Maimane is the leader of Build One South Africa (Bosa)

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.

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