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Mbeki warns: Fix economy or face war

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There was a low-intensity “hidden” civil war in South Africa, and things were going to get worse unless the country moved to full industrialisation to increase the economy, said political economist Moeletsi Mbeki in Durban on Wednesday night.

Addressing the audience during the launch of his book A Manifesto for Social Change: How to Save South Africa, Mbeki said the violence among ANC supporters in KwaZulu-Natal was a sign of that war.

Political economist Moeletsi Mbeki.

The book, which he co-authored with his niece, Dr Nobantu Mbeki, who has a doctoral degree in economic theory from the University of Manchester and is a lecturer in economics at Wits University, explores what is wrong with the South African economy and society.

“South Africa has what we call the hidden civil war. Part of it is becoming visible like we are seeing within the ANC in KZN.

“This is a very troubling situation for the future of the country,” he said.

When asked when he thought the hidden war would come to the surface, Mbeki said: “What we are saying in this book is that an explosion of this nature is inevitable in South Africa.”

He said the carnage could only be avoided with “a very radical restructuring of our society”, which would industrialise the country and lead to massive employment.

“We will have an explosion, but I can’t say when,” he said.

Mbeki said the country had the highest murder rate after Syria, which was at full-blown civil war.

“We have on average 18 000 murders a year in South Africa. We are not at war, but we have rate of violent death next Syria, and Syria is at war. Unlike Syria, ours happens year in and year out. The civil war in Syria will come to an end and then those violent deaths would stop.”

He said the cause of the trouble in the country was that more than 50% of young people were unemployed and either depended on their employed family members or government grants.

He said government leaders overtaxed the private sector in order to pay themselves and their support staff, public servants, at a rate of more than 20 times the salaries earned by similar staff in the private sector.

South Africa’s public sector was one of the highest paid in the world.

He said President Jacob Zuma’s salary was higher that those of the prime minister of England and chancellor of Germany.

“Now if you compare the GDP of South Africa with England or with Germany there is no comparison, but our president earns more money. “Now you go down into the civil service. The civil servant in South Africa earns more money than equivalent people in the private sector. So the political elite uses its power to enrich themselves and its support systems. This is one of the sources of conflict in South Africa.”

He said the political elite survived by taking the profit from the enterprises of the economic elite.

“They tax the profit of the private enterprises. One of the ways of taxing is, for example, Durban Harbour. It is the most expensive harbour in the world because the government uses it to tax the goods that come in and out of the country,” he said.


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