Denis Worrall is Chairman and founder of Omega Investment Research, an international marketing and investment promotion business with offices in Cape Town and London, established more than twenty years ago. To see how Omega can help your business visit www.omegainvest.co.za
Although there recently have been attempts to downplay his role, former president FW De Klerk’s contribution to bringing about the new South Africa is widely acknowledged and was universally recognised with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize jointly to he and Nelson Mandela. The two of them and the maturity and leadership which they brought to the South Africa situation made the transition to a new South Africa and the Rainbow Nation possible.
De Klerk has continued in retirement to play an important role both internationally and in his own country. As a person he has not changed from the very likeable, genial, human being that he was when I first met him 35 years ago – both of us young Members of Parliament. And I was very pleased I attended a speech which he delivered last week but which regrettably did not receive the publicity which it deserved.
De Klerk spoke against the background of an ugly miners’ strike and violent service deliver protests, and while South Africa’s political élite were completely immersed in succession politics. That the ABZ (any but Zuma) faction looks like winning when the ANC presidential elections take place in December is small consolation for the lack of leadership at this time.
The occasion of the speech was also somewhat ironic as it was The Barry Streek annual lecture which he was asked to deliver. Barry Streek was a noted journalist who for all of his life and had opposed De Klerk and apartheid for most of De Klerk’s career. De Klerk chose as his theme inequality in South Africa and showed how equality is enshrined in the Constitution but that as a result of various interpretations this had been considerably weakened to permit discrimination on grounds of race. And as far as the poverty and the Gini Index is concerned, South Africa is the most unequal country after Namibia.
What was exceptional about De Klerk’s address – aside from his knowledge of the Constitution – was that he actually came to some answers. Whereas most analyses today focus on the high-level of unemployment, in particular youth unemployment, the disgruntlement within labour, the violence and corruption, De Klerk actually came up with a set of very well-thought out proposals. In fact, he came with an agenda. While acknowledging that the long-term solution to South Africa’s problem of inequality lies in vastly improving our education and training system, and creating jobs, his recommendations for the promotion of equality and therefore the improvement of the lives of all South Africans went much further:
This is impressive stuff and it is clearly well-thought out. But what I believe is especially important, because it incorporates most of the other admirable proposals he makes, is his support for implementing the National Development Plan. Announced by Trevor Manuel earlier this year, and adopted by Parliament and the Cabinet earlier this month, we believe that this needs to be taken seriously by all members of the government, the private sector, the trade unions and all political parties. If it doesn’t, the country will drift with declining economic indices, increasing unemployment, and growing social discontent. While there are aspects of the Plan and its assumptions which one can question, we believe that this is the road forward. Central challenges identified by the Plan incorporate much of what FW De Klerk proposes. And what encourages us is that we expect the Plan to feature in the ANC’s important conference at the end of year – because it is the single most positive thing that it has to offer. And Trevor Manuel and Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, have an interest in seeing that this happens.