Local residents had the opportunity to hear about South Africa’s future prospects, both grim and hopeful, at the talk by Frans Cronje, CEO of the South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) at the Royal St Andrews Hotel recently.
Cronje has worked for 15 years for the IRR, which was established in 1929 and rose to become the most influential anti-apartheid think tank in the world, he said.
During its 90-year history it forged its unique methodology of using rigorous analysis, face-to-face lobbying, and media pressure to get politicians, government officials, and business leaders to abandon bad policies and adopt those that would advance South Africa’s future as a free and open society.
“It has throughout that history advocated for the rights of individuals to make decisions about their own lives, families, and businesses, free from unnecessary government, political, and bureaucratic interference,” Cronje said.
“In an era where many groups have become shy of ideology, we are proud of our ideological roots.”
He said in the IRR office hangs a mural which reads: “We stand for classical liberalism – an effective way to defeat poverty and tyranny through a system of limited government, a market economy, private enterprise, freedom of speech, individual liberty, property rights and the rule of law.”
Cronje said the IRR employs about 30 analysts who track socio-economic trends and do polling.
“We don’t sugar-coat things and we don’t give the politically correct version. Mainstream analysts won’t say what we say, that South Africa is in real trouble.
“But we can get out of this thing, despite the impression I am going to create,” he said.
He said among the worrying trends were that SA government debt had doubled in the past decade, reverting to pre-1994 levels, more than half of young people don’t have a job, there are now more people in welfare than in employment, the quality of maths and science education in schools is rated at 128 out of 140 countries, roughly five out of every 100 children will go on to pass maths in matric with a grade of 50%, and half a million South Africans have been murdered since 1994 at a rate which is today 30 times higher than in most civilised societies, and comparable to war zones.
“As the fiscal and political pressure builds, the ruling party displays ever more dangerous behaviour,” Cronje said.
“It turns with ease to hate-filled racial nationalist rhetoric, it sides too comfortably with the worst pariah regimes the world has to offer; it proposes media tribunals and hate speech laws in order to ‘foster social cohesion’; in response to depressed economic conditions, it offers more state encroachment; there will be state-owned mining, and banking, and even pharmaceutical firms, poverty will be addressed via redistribution, historical injustices via expropriation, racial divisions via the stricter enforcement of racial quotas, jobs will be created by stricter labour laws and higher minimum wages,” he said.
“Ramaphosa took a hard line on expropriation without compensation (EWC). Regardless of what is said in the mainstream media, as long as EWC remains on the table, SA will not grow.”
He said too many analysts tell the public they shouldn’t be too concerned, that it’s just the growing pains of a “new dawn”.
He said the argument being used was the ANC government is only attacking property rights, racial minorities, freedom of speech and the market economy to outwit the EFF. And that in order to prevent such attacks taking place, the state must support and even join in such assaults, because only if those now driving the assaults become even more powerful will they stop doing that which they are already so far advanced in doing.
“From decades of experience, our analysts think this is mad,” he said.
Cronje described the history of the ANC from its conservative beginnings to its adoption of Soviet socialist policies, the hope of the Mandela years and real growth in the Mbeki years, to the regression of the Zuma years.
“We believe Nasrec was a stalemate. Ramaphosa says he won but when you look at the same people in positions of power…. If 90 people had voted differently, then [Nkosazana] Dlamini-Zuma would have won,” he said.
“We believe we are in the same bad position we were two years ago. They won’t change course. We’re too far down that road for things to change by themselves.
“What happened in 1994 was not a miracle that just happened. It took long, hard work by scores of organisations,” Cronje said.
“Whether the dangers can be countered and later reversed depends on one thing alone; the ability to force a new balance of power in South Africa’s battle of ideas. It is the ability to shape and command public opinion that determines public policy.
“[And] public opinion is much more sound than the impression created on social media like Twitter,” he said.
“It stands out in our polling time and again that a comfortable eight out of ten South Africans, across lines of race and class, respect one another and remain much invested in the others’ success, while sharing a surprising degree of common ground on the importance of individual choice, property rights, a market economy, and the rule of law.
“The goal is to unite these people.”