First leadership wish:
My first wish is that the ANC top leadership moves quickly and firmly to recall our president from duty.
Our president has been duly elected and there is no question about the legal legitimacy of his holding office. In our system of democracy, voters do not choose or remove the president. Only the ruling party can do so.
If the ANC leadership puts party loyalties, patronage and infighting aside, and honestly seek to promote the good of all South Africans, they would already have acted.
The basic reason for recalling the president is that he has lost the moral legitimacy to be South Africa’s first citizen. The constitutional court has ruled that he compromised his oath of office. His other legal troubles and constant efforts to delay his day in court, have led to a loss of confidence in his moral authority to lead. He simply saps too much energy from the national psyche.
My second wish is for government and private business leaders to trust one another and work together for the common good of our country.
The problem on the government’s side is ideological double-speak. Business remains uncertain as to the actual common position of government on basic policy issues. There is not enough consistent direction on which one can count for longer term investment.
The problem on the business side is that the legitimate promotion of sectional interests (evident in the array of organised business bodies) makes a common stand on big questions difficult.
There must be a better way to structure public policy and private capacities so that it optimises economic growth, job creation, and a more inclusive economy.
We simply cannot wait for Nenegate-type events before government and business seriously talk and seek solutions. If we could negotiate a political transition and a new constitution under severe pressure, we surely can negotiate a common economic vision and policy certainties (with the NDP as consensus-seeking base document?).
My third wish is for state-owned enterprises to be led by professional technocrats.
A lot is made about a “developmental state”. We will not easily agree on what this phrase actually means in practice or what the precise role of the state should be.
But it cannot mean that state monopolies in crucial areas like broadcasting, energy, and transport are run from one crisis to the next, consuming more resources than what they actually contribute. It cannot mean that politically connected, but technically unqualified people are deployed, and boards are packed by friends with constant interference from politicians.
My fourth wish is for universities to retain their relative autonomy in determining access and class fees.
There is a good reason why academic freedom is written in our constitution. There are good reasons why public universities are established by separate laws of parliament. They are not state departments and should not be subjected to the setting of class fees from either a form of central bargaining or by presidential decree.
There are solutions to students’ and universities’ legitimate concerns of financial exclusion. But it will not be derived from the current situation where students hold government hostage and government in turn oversteps its mandate.
Lock the whole lot (government, student representatives and rectors) in a nice lodge near the Kruger Park for a weekend and let them come up with a workable medium term strategy.
My final wish is for all South Africans to realise that the future of the country lies in our hands.
We live in a vibrant democracy. We have a really strong civil society. Our press freedom is – still – a good guarantee for the free flow in information.
We can make this country work.
Piet Naudé: Director of the University of Stellenbosch Business School.
IMAGE CREDITS: www.rand.org