The reality for poor South Africans is that they want to support themselves and their families; and when we entrench prohibitive labour laws, we prevent them from doing so.
Economic freedom is when individuals can trade with each other and offer their services to others without the sword of Damocles of government intervention hanging over them.
It is when a poor person can use his house as a storefront without having to dance to the bureaucratic tune of government regulations.
It is when home owners can sell their homes without a state-mandated pre-emptive clause stopping them.
It is when emerging farmers can buy small plots of agricultural land without the Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act stopping them.
And if they want – heaven forbid – to work for less than R3,500 a month because they cannot find employment at a higher rate, they must be able to do so.
The poor appreciate and understand their own economic reality better than anyone else, and are best placed to decide how to use the resources they have. To force the poor to toe an ideological line, rather than work on empowering themselves, is immoral and defeats any aspiration SA might have about radical economic transformation.
The continuous blame-game in South African politics about the economic woes we face has produced no transformation. In the background of these politically opportunistic battles, the poor stand in queues trying to comply with regulations, when they could be building productive businesses.
True empowerment will not happen once a fictitious scapegoat is finally pinned down and forced to "pay" – it will start happening only when the anti-economic laws and regulations that have a stranglehold on the poor, such as the minimum wage and regulations that increase the cost of living, are repealed.
This will free up unquantifiable amounts of wealth, which could be used for the establishment of small businesses, expanding them and creating more employment.
The more workers who can celebrate Workers’ Day as workers, the more real meaning the day will have.
• Hattingh is an intern and Van Staden is the legal researcher at the Free Market Foundation.
This article was first published in the Business Day on 1 May 2017