The person this country needs is Mashaba, not Eusebius McKaiser
21 January 2016
My jaw dropped when I read Eusebius McKaiser’s recent piece on Democratic Alliance’s decision to nominate Herman Mashaba as Johannesburg mayoral candidate for 2016 last weekend. It dropped because the whole article was nonsense from beginning to end.
In his first paragraph, Eusebius says that we have a right to engage Mr Mashaba’s “delusion” – which is true – that I fully agree with. But, it is also true that we do have a right to engage Eusebius’ myopia and intellectual bankruptcy he always exposes in the media.
I respect Mr Mashaba profoundly. I have engaged with him before, and have seen him telling his remarkable success story. He’s a very inspiring man. I know him as an advocate of human liberty and economic freedom – and that does trouble left-wing zealots such as Eusebius.
Mashaba believes that in order to curb the current high levels of unemployment, reduce corruption and improve economic growth, government should pursue pro-market policies. I think he’s right.
Eusebius lambastes Mashaba’s stance on Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). But anyone who cares deeply about this country should be critical of BEE. For one main reason – it’s a race-based, discriminatory legislation. As a result, it has done nothing to address the needs of the poor; rather, it has enriched black tycoons. Is that what we want?
Apparently Eusebius thinks race-based affirmative action is a necessary and fair response to the unjust society we inherited from colonialism and apartheid. Great idea, right? The problem is that it’s not producing desired outcomes. But of course to left-wing zealots outcomes of any policy don’t matter, intentions do.
What this race-based legislation has done, whether here or in the United States of America, is to enrich black magnates. It has also delegitimized anything that we black people do ourselves to succeed in the market without government’s assistance. Any black achievement today is associated with Eusebius’ race-based affirmative action. How sad.
When a young black person gets a job he doesn’t know whether he was hired because he’s the best person, or because he’s black. Of course Eusebius will never understand how painful this is. Because he’s not black.
The notion that black people’s economic conditions would have never improved without race-based affirmative action is nonsense. Even in times of apartheid, we blacks were in universities, we became lawyers, teachers, nurses, and so on. This was at a time of oppression and exclusion – when we only had access to underclass education. Nonetheless many of us made every effort to become educated and skilled citizens.
I do not mean government should not do something to uplift the poor. All I’m saying is that we can still develop our country and our people without race-based legislation. Race-based legislation should be scrapped.
The South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR), headed by Frans Cronjé, proposes a better alternative to BEE. It’s called Economic Empowerment for the Disadvantaged (EED). The focus of the policy is socio-economic circumstances of the intended beneficiaries, not their race.
This is better because any child of any colour, from any poor family, would benefit. And inevitably, blacks would make up a large proportion of beneficiaries, because they account for the majority of the previously disadvantaged. Unlike BEE, this policy would ensure that a black child from the affluent Sandton is not treated the same way as a black child from the slums of Alexandra.
Now the claim that Mashaba insinuates “that black people in this country who support affirmative action are demanding jobs just on account of being black” is completely garbage. That’s Eusebius’ flawed personal view – he’s entitled to it.
Mr Mashaba is correct when he says that race-based legislation leads to abandonment of skills. This we see in many businesses – where unqualified and corrupt people, are executive officers.
Clearly Eusebius isn’t happy when Mashaba says: “If I have the powers to remove all laws and policies that classify me as a black human being, I’d do it tomorrow.” Excuse me! Isn’t this what we all South Africans should demand? That all laws and policies that classify us as blacks or whites be removed? They are not working, they must be removed.
I don’t think Mr Mashaba wants to abandon his black identity. What he is saying, I believe, is that his views, whether political or economic, should not be associated with his race. Isn’t this the right message? Here’s the question I would ask Eusebius if I were to meet him: In which nations exactly, has racial identity politics ever produced prosperity and peace?
No candidate who is colour blind can deal effectively with economic injustices in South Africa’s cities, precisely because racism lies at the heart of exclusion? This is hogwash. The challenges South Africa faces in its cities are much deeper than racism. It’s the shortage of skills, the lousy education system, crime, corruption in government, the expensive government, government controls and so on. And all these problems do result in economic injustices. Eusebius should know better.
I will not comment to the assertion that Mr Mashaba will “turn out to be a terrible politician” – because Eusebius is just being prophetic – he doesn’t know. It’s a guess, and I hope he’s wrong.
I didn’t address all the nonsense I saw in Eusebius’ article, because I think what I have said is enough.
It is sad that when the media wants to understand the racial tensions this country endures, it runs to Eusebius McKaiser. Probably because he says what they want to hear. I don’t think this man believes in what he says. I just think he says what he says just to boost his book sales.
Herman Mashaba’s thinking and vision is what South Africa needs. What South Africa doesn’t need, is left-wing crusaders like Eusebius McKaiser.
Phumlani M. UMajozi is a Policy Fellow at the IRR, a think tank that promotes economic and political liberty. Follow the IRR on Twitter @IRR_SouthAfrica.