The self-appointed Leader of the #ThumaMina brigade President Cyril Ramaphosa has recently been doing international relations duties. He returned with foreign investments of more than R450 billion, the largest amount we have had entrusted in us as a nation so far.
Key questions in the minds of youth and South Africans in general at this point are, ‘Does this mean I will finally have a job?’, ‘Will I finally put the qualification I attained over a four year period to good use?’ and last but not least, ‘Will I be able to provide basic dignities such as food and clothing for my family’. The obvious answer to these questions is, not necessarily.
Recent trends have highlighted that graduates from institutions of higher learning are victims of unemployment. The #FeesMustFallists have suddenly become the #JobsMustRisists. However, this is South Africa, a nation that predominantly considers the voices of the already privileged. Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with getting a college degree in order to boost one’s skill set (but like many, I’m a university graduate who experienced a year of unemployment). However, a strike at TUT could not have initiated #FeesMustFall because the privileged would not have been affected. Similarly, there was a severe drought in Limpopo in 2017 – but Cape Town made international news. Capetonians and tourists ‘suffered’ empty swimming pools. But decades of no water at all, specifically in the Waterval village near Elim Hospital (where residents had no option but to drink from the local river where sewage is deposited) does not feature in a Google ‘water crisis in South Africa’ search.
The scope and extent of the water crisis in South Africa is far greater than just fixing the Cape Town water crisis. Cape Town swimming pools are sparkling blue again but over 5 million South Africans still do not have access to reliable drinking water.
In the same light, the 100 000 jobs lost in the 2nd quarter of this year may not sound like a big deal. But it is the rank and file who were hard done. Every job lost has an impact on direct and indirect dependants. For millions of South Africans hard labour remains the only source of income the family has.
Consider that every imported item that could have been produced in South Africa is directly stealing from South Africans. Foreign imports deprive locals of the opportunity to provide for themselves further undermining the already dilapidated level of dignity we have. Manufacturing requires skills that can be taught on the job or with basic training that is usually provided by the firm. Manufactured goods have a low volume high returns ratio.
While manufacturing and agriculture have been on a decline in terms of employment creation, one industry that had huge gains is retail. The question then is, where are these products coming from? Who retains the dignity of adding the value of labour within the supply chain while South Africans remain only consumers, not contributors? Oh and last but not least, what is government doing about this?
A quick look at statistics reveals that the same countries that have heavily invested in us who are competition for our local produce. These countries have enormous price reduction mechanisms that render their South African counterparts unprofitable. Chinese clothing has shut down the South African clothing sector. Yet we are buying all these foreign goods in even larger more lavish malls. And not unlike the water crisis, it is not just one industry that is affected. Consumables of virtually every kind are being imported rather than being sourced locally, including the devestation of our poultry industry in the interests of global trade.
Poverty should never be a competitive advantage. Is it in the best interests of our people, our future, to accept minimum wages to retain multinational companies in our economy?
As mines close down, government starts retrenchments and multinationals provide toxic competition, we have to ask ourselves which industry are we finally ready to shutdown in terms of international trade and instead, insource that activity to South Africa and start building our nation.
By Keoagile Matseke