A youth’s letter to President Zuma
Dear Mr President,
I write this letter in anxiety, I believe our country is headed in the wrong direction. This is a critical time for our nation – where people have not only lost hope in their economic prospects, but also, in the entire political leadership, led by yourself.
But before I go further Mr President, I think it is vital that I briefly introduce myself to you.
Apart from being a policy fellow at the South African Institute of Race Relations, I’m also a youth coordinator of the Free Market Foundation Youth, a division of the Free Market Foundation South Africa. I lead a youth whose mission is to contribute to the well-being of South Africa, through the advancement of economic freedom and individual liberty.
South Africa’s economy is, I believe, in tatters. The very much needed economic growth is projected to be less than 1% this year, at least according to one of your departments, the treasury. The cost of living continues to rise, and the weak rand is one of the contributing factors in this tough situation we are in. Unemployment remains a serious impediment to our nation’s progress. And racial tensions, persist.
Mr President, what I have mentioned above are a few of a myriad of challenges our nation faces. And of course I do not mean to lecture you, because you are well-aware of these challenges.
The fundamental point I want to raise, is that we the youth are the most impacted by South Africa’s current economic and social quagmires. More than 8 million South Africans are unemployed, and more than 60% of these people are the youth, under the age of 35 – a serious crisis.
Last year, a BBC News journalist, Lerato Mbele, asked me “How do young people feel about the economy?” I was clear in my answer that we young people desperately need jobs, and our lacklustre economy fails to produce employment. We also want decent, quality education to make a meaningful contribution to our country.
Mr President, because of a series of scandals in your administration, and the mismanagement of the economy, since you came into office, our situation has deteriorated. We do feel the pain of an unproductive economy that produces unemployment.
After the Constitutional Court’s judgement that you violated the constitution by your failure to comply with the remedial action taken against you by the public protector in her report on Nkandla, many South Africans, including me, expected you to resign as head of state. You didn’t.
Since you have chosen to remain in power, then please steer this nation in the right direction, because at the moment, it seems we are on a path to a disaster.
Your government’s policies are not working. In fact, they are making things worse. We the youth feel lost in the wilderness.
To improve our education, competition in schools is seriously needed. Our education system needs competitive schools in order to produce quality education for the youth. And encouraging growth of independent schools is key to achieving quality education. Competition would improve both public schools and private schools. And perhaps instead of subsidizing schools, your government should subsidise learners, and help them access the schools of their choice.
Your government’s burdensome regulations have made it very difficult for small businesses to grow, as evidenced by SBP’s 2015 SME Growth Index, need to be lifted. They have had a negative impact on job creation.
With the national minimum wage law on its way, we the youth will suffer, greatly. Because many of us will not have the experience and skills required to match that minimum wage. The result will be further joblessness amongst us. Disappointing.
Of course there are many other challenges South Africa faces, way beyond what I have mentioned above. And to be frank, there are no solutions, because in economics, there are no solutions, there are trade-offs. But I do believe that bringing robust competition to our schools, lifting government controls on the economy, scrapping e-tolls, scrapping minimum wage laws, allowing the market to work, privatizing state-owned enterprises, will improve our economic productivity and therefore create more jobs.
In conclusion, Mr President, I’ve written this letter as a concerned young South African, raised by parents who had no education. Even today my family faces challenges, but we are working very hard to surmount them. In my township where I come from I always see young people’s serious struggles in finding employment.
I hope you’ll realise that what South Africa needs is a productive economy – and that as long as you and your government colleagues are in control of the economy, this nation will keep stumbling. And it’s hard to imagine the pain we the youth will endure in the process. Very hard.
Phumlani M. Majozi
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.