Let us not blame others for government’s failures

We are at a crucial stage in the history of our country. Eighteen years after the adoption of a liberal constitution we have come to a point where it is clear to all of us that the freedom we fought for is being destroyed by people who place their own personal interests above those of the nation.

We are now being told that the safeguards that were built into the constitution to protect the people from the tyranny of government were a strategy to gain power; that they can now be abandoned. In other words, some of the negotiators are saying that they lied to their opponents in order to gain their agreement and lied to the people when they told them that they had negotiated “the best constitution in the world”. This is not true of all the negotiators, only those whose lust for power overshadows their concern for the interests of the majority of the people.

Why are we hearing these “admissions” at this time? Eighteen years after 1994 we find that everything around us that is under government control is breaking down. The lights are being kept on by paying large industries to use less electricity and by blocking development projects, at a high cost in jobs and economic growth lost. Many towns do not have clean water. The poor state of the railways is interfering with exports and forcing companies to use road transport, causing the roads to break up. Management of cities and towns is breaking down and many of them are bankrupt. Corruption is rife. Crime is out of control. Government hospitals and clinics are in a poor state. Schools are broken. The list goes on and on. Now we hear talk about a second transition. The politicians really know how to buy time and deflect attention away from the failure of their policies.

What these statements are leading up to is predictable. Government needs someone to blame, so blame the whites or colonialism, both convenient scapegoats. The problem government has is that non-racialism is one of the founding provisions in the constitution. Of course, this provision has been largely ignored in BEE legislation, government appointments, the awarding of tenders and elsewhere, to the detriment of the economy and good governance. Racialism, in not selecting the best people for jobs was bad for the country under apartheid and it is still bad for the country.

The purpose in blaming any particular sector of the population is also predictable. It is to persuade the majority of people to support the scrapping of parts of the constitution that are intended to prevent government from engaging in theft from the people, such as taking farms from white farmers Mugabe-style and putting them in the hands of political cronies. It did not prevent them from taking mineral rights from land owners but lack of protest can possibly be considered to be consent. Farmers are not being as accommodating about handing over their land. But it is not only farms that will be at risk if property rights protection is removed from the constitution. All property ownership will be at risk.

Communists believe, as I once did, that all property and the means of production should be owned and controlled by the state. And don’t think any particular person will be exempted once we all lose constitutional protection of our property rights. When a tyrannical government is finished with looting from others it will be your turn. And if you think that being a member of the central committee will keep your property safe, read about what happened to Stalin’s closest allies. Of course, it need not come to this but it is up to the people of South Africa, and especially members of the ANC to ensure that they protect everyone’s constitutional rights in order to protect their own.

In my early years of rebelling against apartheid I believed that socialism/communism was the route to true freedom for all. I became disenchanted when I realised that this philosophy, which at first sight appears to be so benign and good, is the siren song of those who seek power for the few over the many. It was then that I discovered that true freedom does not come about because of what governments do but what they are prevented from doing.

My philosophical mentor in discovering the truth was Professor Walter E Williams, a remarkable and great man. I watched a video of a speech he gave on a visit to South Africa. Initially I could not believe that a black man could have views such as he was expressing. In the video, Professor Williams said: “the solution to South Africa’s problems is not special programmes, it’s not affirmative action, it’s not handouts, and it’s not welfare. It is freedom. Because if you look around the world and you look for rich people, diverse people who have the ability to get along fairly well, you are also looking at a society where there are relatively large amounts of individual freedom.” He caused me to start searching for the true meaning of freedom. The search has led me to read many books and articles and taken me to many places, such as Austria, Chile, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Kenya, the Philippines, Russia, Sweden, the UK, USA and Zambia.

In his book South Africa’s War Against Capitalism, published in 1989, Professor Williams had the following advice for South Africans, “Now – in order to promote tranquillity, dignity for the individual, and prosperity for all – South Africa’s people must strengthen its beleaguered market forces, and declare war against centralised government power.”

It is the kind of individual freedom that Professor Walter Williams writes about that we should be pursuing in South Africa. That is what I fought for and that is what most people in this country want. They do not want the enslavement of whites as we were enslaved. They, and I, want freedom for all. Freedom is indivisible; it is not possible to have freedom for some and not for others in the same country.

See: Walter Williams Home Page – http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/wew/

Author Temba A Nolutshungu is a director of the Free Market Foundation. This article may be republished without prior consent but with acknowledgement to the author. The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation.

FMF Feature Article / 11 July 2012

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