Our future depends on stronger social cohesion

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Mzila Mthenjane | Executive Head: Stakeholder Affairs | Exxaro Resources | mail me |


South Africa’s economic future is inextricably linked to the broader efforts to create a cohesive and progressive society.

Initiatives to stimulate key sectors of the economy and attract investment to ignite job-creating growth will not be successful if they are not accompanied by a parallel process to address lingering issues in society that inhibit nation building.

Indlulamithi South Africa Scenarios 2030

This reality is also recognised in the current initiative to stimulate a wide-ranging national conversation about South Africa’s future through the development of different scenarios.

Known as Indlulamithi South Africa Scenarios 2030, this initiative aims to take a long-term view, imagining what the country will look like a decade or more down the line depending on the choices we make today.

The scenarios are the products of thorough research and a wide process of consultation with thought leaders, sectoral experts and communities across the country. We expect that our findings will continue to be enriched through the constructive comments we receive from citizens.

This approach is familiar to us in the business sector – and especially in the mining industry – where we are acutely aware of the need to balance decisions that will produce short term results with the longer-term sustainability of our companies and industry.

The launch of the Indlulamithi scenarios coincided with the start of a new era in our socio-political trajectory and the commencement of promising initiatives to clean up the public sector, confront wastage and inefficiencies and take decisive actions against graft and corruption.

A shared vision

It also marks an intent aligned to the objectives of the National Development Plan as a shared vision of where the country wants to be at the end of the next decade.

It is no coincidence that the NDP describes social cohesion as ‘the anchor strategy’ without which all efforts to promote growth, create jobs and eradicate inequality would flounder.

The scenarios paint vivid pictures of what South Africa’s future could look like depending on the choices we make today.

iSbhujwa

We can dance the iSbhujwa and become an enclave nation – defined by deep social divisions between rich and poor and relentless social protests which are met with oppressive actions by the state.

In such a future, the business sector looks only after its narrow self-interests. Its focus is directed at opportunities that guarantee substantial short-term profits, largely in monopolised sectors.

Gwara Gwara

An even bleaker future is one torn between immobility and restless energy embodied by the Gwara Gwara dance, in which we completely fail to deal with corruption in government institutions and the private sector.

State-owned enterprises continue to loot the fiscus and South Africa is compelled to seek bailouts from global financial institutions, while perpetuating poor governance in the private sector results in weak business entities that cannot fulfil societal needs and expectations.

Consequently, investment in mining, agribusiness and manufacturing dries up, unemployment reaches unprecedented highs and economic growth fails to address the expectations of the poor and the marginalised.

Nayi le Walk

However, there is also a third scenario – the Nayi le Walk – in which South Africa is a nation in step with itself.

Thanks to sensible political and business leadership and prudent economic strategies the nation of ‘slow-getters’ can become a country of ‘go-getters.’

Such a projected future does not gloss over our real challenges or remove the incentives for all sectors of society to work together to attain it. We will still be grappling with joblessness, landlessness and inequality. But we will also have made massive strides to create a better life for most… and substantial hope for others.

In this scenario government provides an anchor for focused leadership that enables the private sector to invest in growth-creating projects in agriculture, tourism, light manufacturing and mining. The global explosion in technology and knowledge industries enables digitally savvy young people to establish micro-enterprises and enable service delivery at community level.

Our role… for change

In our own company, we have identified skills development and investment in educational projects that promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics as priorities.

We continue to believe that the mining sector can play a catalytic role in shaping South Africa’s economic trajectory.

There is no way in which we can predict the future with absolute certainty. It is, however, within our power as a society to make prudent choices and keep our leaders – whether in politics, the economy or civil society – to account.

Our recent history has given us a glimpse of a future that might have led to the undesirable scenarios envisaged in the Indlulamithi initiative. There is sufficient optimism that the new political leadership is steering us towards a Nayi le Walk future. And within the corporate and business environments there is growing support for initiatives that seek to attract investment, create employment and stimulate growth.

In this future, a social compact between government, business and civil society that enhances social cohesion will be a recurring and dominant theme. We have to build trust within communities and among all sectors of society. Our shared objectives for increased investment in critical sectors of the economy, enterprise and job-creating economic growth and better outcomes in education and health can only be achieved if we build on the basis of social cohesion.


 

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