Run when the money runs out
Beware the day the ANC has to cut back social grants
Feb 14, 2011 12:59 AM | By Justice Malala
Justice Malala: There were a lot of numbers in President Jacob Zuma's speech on Thursday night but the most sickeningly scary of them appeared on page three.
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More and more South Africans are without a job
Zuma read the paragraph as part of his list of the achievements of his administration and of this country over the past 17 years, but actually it was probably the one number that pinpoints with intense clarity just how much we have failed as a country and as a state.
The paragraph reads: "Close to 15million South Africans obtain social grants from the state. We will phase in the extension of the child support grant to cover eligible children under the age of 18 years."
This is not an achievement; this is nothing to celebrate. This number, which increases by a vast amount every year, tells us unambiguously that more and more South Africans are without a job, that more and more of them are turning to a life of receiving instead of producing.
More and more people are losing the dignity of, and the possibilities opened up by, being in employment or creating employment.
The number speaks to so many aspects of the new South Africa. It is a number that Zuma should have analysed in detail, but he devoted only two paragraphs to this most crucial aspect of his speech.
The political consultants who advised the ANC on its election campaign in 1994 are very proud of the simple but effective slogan they coined for some of the party's posters.
It said: "Jobs, jobs, jobs."
This was the cry of the people and this is what the ANC promised to deliver to its electorate.
Just 17 years later, the party should be standing up in Parliament and telling us just how improved the jobs landscape in South Africa is today.
Sadly, terribly, we are now a state that celebrates how many people cannot fend for themselves.
We made them dependent on social grants. Since 1994, instead of concentrating on encouraging entrepreneurship, the ANC has, every year, proudly announced that an even greater number of people are receiving social grants.
Where is the money coming from?
Nowadays, in many communities, a child is born only to be registered for a child grant.
Where are the messages that say that to have a child one must be able to feed a child?
But such messages are too politically inconvenient and incorrect.
Where is the money coming from?
The official unemployment rate, according to Statistics SA, is 24%. Such a figure would be considered indicative of a crisis in many parts of the world. In this country, we laugh at this statistic: we know the reality is somewhere around 50%. So you have close to 15million people dependent on the taxes of just under 5million taxpayers. The Treasury estimates that, by 2012, this figure will have reached 16million.
Of these, more than 10million will be child-grant beneficiaries.
What growth will there have been in the number of taxpayers?
Can Zuma create 5million jobs in the next 10 years?
In 2009 he promised 500000 jobs. Instead, a million jobs were lost.
Speaking about social grants, Zuma went on to say: "Since we are building a developmental and not a welfare state, the social grants will be linked to economic activity and community development, to enable short-term beneficiaries to become self-supporting in the long run."
The most crucial question - the "how" question - was not answered or examined. Zuma merely moved on to other issues.
I happen to be one of those people who is all for helping the poor and recognise the role of the state in doing this.
However, I am appalled that our massive state machinery seems to clunk on, doling out monies to the poor, without thought of the sustainability of this policy.
Political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki has given much thought to this. This is what he wrote before Zuma's speech:
"I can predict when South Africa's 'Tunisia Day' will arrive. Tunisia Day is when the masses rise against the powers that be. The year will be 2020, give or take a few years. This is when China estimates its current minerals-intensive industrialisation phase will be complete.
"For South Africa, this will mean the ANC government will have to cut back on social grants, which it uses to placate the black poor to get their votes.
"China's current industrialisation phase has forced up the prices of South Africa's minerals, which has enabled the government to finance social welfare programmes."
What happens when these prices collapse?
The ANC will have to cut back on grants. The masses will rise up. We will explode. Mbeki is right.