Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Strikes - a living wage and Europe's glass house

Let's cut the bull for five minutes and call a South African spade a shovel.

  1. The government has failed. Service delivery; job-creation and an improvement in living standards has fallen short of the political promissory note. Paradoxically, the ensuing leadership vacuum has given intellectually questionable and morally obtuse opportunists the platform to fuel discontent.
  2. Government excess and nepotism is no different or more morally corrupt than the culturally entrenched nepotistic employment practices and excesses common in the private sector. 
  3. The unions have lost relevance. NUM, in particular, has forfeited control; lacking the strategic vision, leadership qualities and structural continuity to motivate effective collective bargaining. When dialogue fails, militant violence must follow.  
  4. The strikes in the mining and transport industry are tangible manifestations of the current misalignment between the expectations of the general population and the ability of the country to service those claims. The private sector, specifically those companies structurally confined within the geographic region, lacks the margin to pass on a higher wage bill to consumers. The cycle intensifies when consumers themselves face further cost-push realignment; usually a down-scaling.
  5. Education is neither pragmatic nor sufficiently preparatory for effective participation in the global environment. The negative economic consequences of the largely defunct educational system will emerge in the next decade, effectively negating an entire generations' creative potential.
  6. Structural inadequacies and largely porous borders strain the rule of law, promoting violence, ethnic mistrust and racial bias.
  7. Publicly reported remuneration excesses in the formal private sector fuels the corporate culture of personal gain and systematic asset stripping at the expense of longevity and so on and so on...
Notwithstanding all of the above, the South African situation is not much different from the structural failures in both Europe and the US. European corruption, nepotism, ineffectual leadership and the emerging militancy of its populace is neither imagined nor surprising. Political ineptitude, tax evasion and corporate excess at the highest levels is systemic. 

Critically, although most condemn the associated violence, you could argue that the strikers demanding a living wage are correct in their claims that hitherto local and now internationally domiciled mines have been stripping this country's assets for far too long. Is there a case to pursue a national policy of resource-ownership? Why not rather pay contracted mines for their extraction skills, infrastructural spend and intellectual capital and pay them generously? Market the refined, rather than the raw product, through a state-owned central hub managed by the private sector, also contracted and paid generously. Strategically viable? Yes. Socially acceptable? Perhaps. Timeous and innovative? Definitely. 

At its core South Africa's mineral wealth, currently residing in the corporate / capital structures of Europe, has not made her people prosperous and you don't have to look too far to see why. 

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