DURBAN – The children of parents who fought against apartheid do not care about their parents’ “struggle credentials” – instead, they are interested in opportunities outlined in the Constitution, African National Congress (ANC) MP Makhosi Khoza said at a book launch on Thursday evening.
“Young people today don’t care if you once belonged to uMkhonto we Sizwe or the Azanian People’s Liberation Army. They want to know how you are going to fix the education and health systems and give them opportunities so that they can prosper,” said the outspoken MP, whose forthright comments often cause consternation, especially among the her party’s youth.
Khoza was speaking at the Elangeni Maharani Hotel in Durban during a book launch hosted by the Xubera Institute for Research and Development.
Threats of protests against Khoza by the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) failed to materialise. Irked by suggestions that Khoza would not commit to supporting President Jacob Zuma in the imminent no confidence vote in Parliament, the ANCYL had earlier this week threatened to disrupt the book launch.
Khoza, who recently said she had received death threats, was sharing her thoughts on the contents of “Making Africa Work”, which has been described as “a handbook for economic success”.
Authors Greg Mills from the Oppenheimer-founded Brenthurst Foundation, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo and Dickie Davis attended the launch.
Dr Nkosana Moyo, a former Zimbabwean minister of industry and international trade, was also part of the panel.
IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi was a VIP guest in the 200-strong audience, which mostly consisted of private sector employees and academics.
“When we were fighting during apartheid we all had one common enemy in racism. Now we have the Constitution and the country, and that Constitution is promising us prosperity … but we are doing things that are chasing away investment,” said Khoza.
She said that her understanding of radical economic transformation was to start looking at Africa as an investment destination composed of liberated individuals.
Intra-Africa trade in South Africa sat at 12%, which was “pathetic”, she said. With all of the trade opportunities available on the continent, it did not make sense that people were “sweating the small stuff”.
She said challenges faced by South Africa and the continent were centred on leadership and making the right decisions.
“The challenges that we have are about being able to take a stand on issues that matter. Our people no longer care about ideas, they want to see their lives improved on a daily basis,” said Khoza.
Books such as “Making Africa Work” could be used by legislators to make the transition from a “struggle mentality” to a prospering mentality, she said.
Khoza said “everything today” was about algorithms, and the country and the continent needed to “catch up”.
“It’s urgent. Our people have been subjected to so much over centuries; we cannot let this continent fail.”
Khoza said the time for talking about problems was over. New solutions were needed.
“We’ve tried nationalisation repeatedly and each time it fails, but people still want it. Why do you keep on trying something that has repeatedly failed?” she asked.
Khoza said innovation meant that becoming a billionaire was now open to anyone, but instead the label “capitalist” was still seen as a swear word in South Africa; capitalists themselves were scared of admitting it.
“We need to begin shifting and speaking the language that our people understand, and that is prosperity,” she said.
Prosperity was understood regardless of nationality, race, culture or creed.
Africa needed to see itself as one continent with many opportunities and develop industrialists to serve well-established markets. This would not happen if people continued to fight over trivialities and lived in the past, Khoza said.
“Sometimes we are very sensationalist about the history of South Africa. This country was made by everybody … We need to be courageous and make everyone feel as if they belong on this continent,” said Khoza.
“There is no way you can chase away people, no matter how much you hate the colonisers. They are here with us. A good example of this is Afrikaners. They are patriotic. Where do you want them to go?”
Instead, South Africans and other Africans need to start building the things that connect them and take the best examples from each other in order to prosper.
Obasanjo said African countries need to stop mimicking, find their real identities and pacify youths through education and economic growth before a potentially explosive situation was ignited.
These are just some of the ideas presented in the book, “Making Africa Work” – which besides outlining a disastrous future if nothing is done – urges leaders to “consolidate democracy, liberalise economies, invest in people and infrastructure and ensure the rule of law”.
Obasanjo said while Boko Haram continued to pose a threat in his country, his “greatest fear is youth unemployment. Their frustrations would lead into anger. This will know no political or religious boundaries. It will be an explosion no one can manage”.
The former Nigerian leader added: “We need to pacify the youth. We need to find solutions [to job creation, health, education, food security]. We’ve had enough talk. The colonialists didn’t do it right but what have we done since independence?”
Other speakers included Zimbabwe’s Dr Moyo, who said that besides the unrealistic expectations faced by countries such as South Africa and Zimbabwe post-independence, African countries lacked identity.
“We mimic other people. We need to go back to basics,” said Moyo reiterating a sentiment expressed by Obasanjo.
He said the ruling elite often adopted the habits of their former colonial rulers and became detached from the people they served.
Moyo said ruling elite “dragged people into spaces they didn’t understand” when leaders should be making a greater effort to understand the customs and culture of the people they served.
Calling Obasanjo a “Rock star”, co-author Mills said the book looked at the relationship between democracy, development, policy and planning.
“We proved conclusively that democracies grow faster. We did 200 interviews across the continent and looked at case studies,” said Mills.
The book has forwards written by, among others, former Malawi president Joyce Banda, former Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga, African Union commission chairperson Erastus Mwencha, former Zimbabwean finance minister Tendai Biti and Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane.
– African News Agency (ANA)