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09 March 2018 Photo Barend Nagel
Experts engage in stimulating discussion on South Africa future
Moeletsi Mbeki, Prof Phillippe Burger, Dr Ina Gouws, and Waldimar Pelser.

The University of the Free State (UFS) and the broader Bloemfontein community had the privilege of listening to expert opinions on the country’s future at the Wynand Mouton Theatre on the Bloemfontein Campus on 2 March 2018. On stage were Waldimar Pelser, Rapport editor; Prof Phillippe Burger (Department of Economics); Dr Ina Gouws (Department of Political Studies and Governance) from UFS; and author and businessman Moeletsi Mbeki. Together they painted a critical picture of our current and future state of affairs during a remarkable morning hosted by Rapport Regstreeks and kykNET. 

The ills of our economy
Master of his subject, Prof Burger had the audience spellbound when he explained the real issues surrounding our current sluggish economy. He was concerned about the general lack of growth – the major reason for unemployment. Figures have shown that even a slight increase in economic growth, creates an increase in employment. “We know that good education leads to economic growth,” he said. Poor education is one of our big problems, with our school mathematics performance among the worst in the world. He further advised that we should roll back patronage, stabilise public debt, facilitate a true partnership between government and businesses, identify specific growth sectors, address tenure rights, develop supply chains, and develop special skills. “I believe that we should bring back apprenticeships,” he said. 

Political pains
Mostly in agreement with Prof Burger’s contribution, Mbeki wanted to add politics in the mix as a factor that harms our economy. Capturing the audience with his impressive knowledge and insight, he explained that we basically still sat with the British economic systems set out between 1902 and 1910 – the production and export of minerals, fuelled by cheap labour. The mining sector provided a market for agriculture that also used cheap labour. Currently, we sit with two elites: the capital elite that produces, and the political elite that taxes the profits. Hence, the money is not reinvested. “We need new elite, that will invest in the country, instead of consuming the profits,” he said. Who should this be? “Such a coalition must include owners of productive assets who should form an alliance with rural people.”

Remain vigilant
Dr Ina Gouws supported this notion, saying that now was not the time to put our hopes in one leader for a better future. We should remain critical and vocal about our concerns. Political leaders did not always paint a true picture of what the people wanted and felt. 

More interesting and current topics were addressed during the question and answer session, and Pelser ensured that all adhered to a strict schedule, while using the available time optimally. We hope to see more such events on campus, inviting discourse on current topics. 

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