Building an African Common Sense Consensus Between Government,
Business and Communities

Conference on Integrated Governance: Cape Town, 7 – 8 April 2005


Address by Dave Steward – Executive Director of  the F W de Klerk Foundation



Slide One

Introduction:  Common sense vs. ideology


The purpose of this conference is to focus on the complex inter-relationship between Government, business, labour and civil society in our common effort to build a winning nation and a winning continent.  The conference also seeks to promote dialogue between these role-players regarding the complex issues of governance that confront us.


In my paper I shall set out my views on how I believe these issues can best be addressed.  This is the perspective of a white, middle-aged English-speaking South African from a privileged background – which is about as demographically incorrect as you can get!  Nevertheless, I was closely involved in our transformation process and  am now involved in civil society initiatives that seek to promote communicaton between South Africans from different backgrounds on the challenges that confront is all.   I hope that my views will make a contribution to the dialogue that this conference wishes to promote.


My point of departure is that we should address  the challenges of governance from a pragmatic and not an ideological  point of departure.


Ideologies start with an idea or a system of ideas and attempt to force the infinitely complex facets of human society and human nature to conform with the idea.

They often have their roots in praiseworthy ideals:


However, no human theory has ever been developed that can satisfactorily encompass the total complexity of changing and evolving human activities and relationships.The worst violations of human rights have been caused by the imposition of rigid ideologies.


Apartheid was also an ideology in terms of which the National Party government tried to force the complex realities of South Africa into narrow and rigid moulds of racial separation and ethnic self-determination.  The result – as we all know – was unacceptable injustice, severe restrictions of freedom and human development; and unaffordable distortions in the economy.


Even a system like the Washington Consensus can take on the dimensions of an ideology – particularly when they try to force complex realities to conform to the narrow financial and fiscal prescriptions that were sometimes advocated by the IMF.



Slide 2


Common Sense or Pragmatism start from the point of view of the complex realities of human society and human nature and devise policies that can develop the situation in the direction of social ideals.


Pragmatism                                                                                                                     Ideology


Starts with reality and works toward                                                               Starts with ideas and ideals and

Ideals                                                                                                                                   tries to change reality


Evolutionary                                                                                                                   Revolutionary


Tolerant                                                                                                                             Intolerant


Flexible                                                                                                                               Rigid



Slide 3


The Common Sense approach to integrated governance in South Africa: 2005


What are the realities?




We have one of the best constitutions in the world which protects the full spectrum of human rights.  We have separation of powers and institutions like the Constitutional Court that underpin our democracy. Although we have a fully functioning multiparty democracy we are now increasingly referred to as a dominant party democracy because of the large majority that the ruling party enjoys and the unlikelihood that it can be defeated in elections in the foreseeable future.


The Government has managed the economy in an exemplary fashion and has won the admiration of observers throughout the world and also of sovereign rating agencies.  Inflation and interest rates are at their lowest levels for decades.  Consumer confidence levels are higher than they have ever been and we are well positioned for accelerated growth – we hope in the 4 – 6% range during the coming years.  We have also increased our manufactured exports – despite the strength of the rand and have greatly expanded tourism.  We have recently been earning more from the export of cars and from tourism  than from gold.


In a 2003 study, Pierre du Toit and Hennie Kotzé found that what they described as ‘the new middle class’ had increased from 8.8% in 1994 to 11.9% in 2000.  Most of the increase was due to the rapid growth of the black middle class which more than doubled from 3.3% of the total black population in 1994 to 7.8% in 2000.  This meant that black South Africans  comprised 49% of the middle class in 2000, compared with 34% for whites (drawn from the 2nd – 4th income quintiles); 5% Indians and 12% Coloureds.  In 1994 blacks comprised 29% of the middle class, coloureds 11%, Indians 7% and whites 53%.


All these factors are positive and provide confidence in the future.  There are, however, negative realities that we simply cannot ignore:


The constitutional transformation of South Africa has not led to an improvement in the living conditions of at least half of the population. The HSRC reports that South Africa’s Gini coefficient rose from 0,69 in 1996 to 0,77 in 2001.  Ironically, there are indications that the redistribution of disposable income between race groups has actually slowed since 1994.


According to the Mail & Guardian last year  57% of South Africans were living below the poverty line of R1 290 a month for a family of four.[1]


The main cause of black poverty is unemployment, which increased for the black population from 36.2% in 1995 to 46.6% in 2002[2]. Less than 10% of the total number of people in the poorest decile of the population is employed compared with more than half of the total number of people in the top income decile.


South Africa continues to experience one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world with infection rates of between 20% and 30% of the sexually active population in various regions of the country.


It has been estimated that more than 220 000 people have been murdered in South Africa since 1994.  This is four times the number of American troops who died in the Vietnam War and ten times the number of people who were killed in political violence during the preceeding decade from 1984 t0 1994.


There are indications that inter-race relations are beginning to show strain as transformation policies start to affect core interests


According to a study in 2001 by the SANSA project at UCT over 233,000 South Africans emigrated permanently to five countries – the United Kingdom, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – between 1989 and 1997.[3]  This represents a rate during this period of almost 30 000 emigrants per annum.

At the same time an unknown number of immigrants have arrived in South Africa from the rest of Africa – most of them illegally.


All this is taking place within the framework of a globalising world economy with rapidly increasing trade, communication and information flows and mobility in skills and capital.  Globalisation creates enormous potential advantages – but it also poses serious threats and distortions that tend to favour fully developed economies.



Slide 4


Pragmatism without ideals lacks soul or direction.

What are the ideals that should guide the formulation of policy?

Most of them are contained in the constitution.  According to the first section in the constitution our founding values include:

According to its preamble, the constitution also sets out to

Those ideals should be provide sufficient direction for us all!


Slide 5


What pragmatic policies should we adopt – based on the realities that confront us – that will best promote the ideals contained in the constitution?

The common sense response is


Slide 6


Black Economic Empowerment

Transformation is one of the central priorities of the New South Africa.  Justice, common sense and political stability demand that


However, justice and political stability also require that transformation should be implemented in a fair and workable manner. Unbalanced transformation has the potential to undermine inter-racial harmony and to impair the country’s ability to deliver essential services and promote economic growth


We need a balanced programme of black economic empowerment that will rapidly achieve goals of greater representivity, participation and ownership – and that will


We must also avoid perceptions that BEE promotes the interests of only a few plutocrats.  However the realilty is that 60% of empowerment deals during 2003 (R25.3 billion) accrued to the companies of just two men.  In one major deal valued at between R3.5 and R5 billion 10% of the value accrued to the company of one of these businessmen while only 1% that was set aside for workers as part of an employee shareholder initiative.[4]


Slide 7


Job Creation

We need to adopt policies that will genuinely create employment – even if this means that we must depart from ideogical ideals;  in particular, we need flexible provisions that will enable small and medium size businesses to create jobs without undermining the gains made by the labour movement.  Maybe we need a two-tier labour system – one with full union protection for large corporations; and a more flexible system for small and medium companies.  The alternative is to continue with our present three tier labour system where in practice


As with so many of the other challenges that confront us the solution to unemployment lies in far better education and training.


Slide 8


Education and Training

The key to empowerment, to economic growth, job creation and the development of a successful society is education and training.

Unfortunately – our schools are performing dismally in this crucial area;


According to the  IJR South African learners perform weakly, even when compared with learners in much poorer countries with far fewer resources than South African schools.


One of the reasons for this terrible performance is that only 50% of maths teachers and 42% of science teachers have studied these subjects beyond secondary-school level.


We need a radical and massive overhaul of an education and training system that is clearly failing to meet the minimum requirements of the economy and of black empowerment.  The problem is not one of financial resources, but one of training, administration, educational values and the optimum utilisation of existing resources.


Slide 9


Much better service delivery

We have to address serious service delivery problems in up to half of our municipalities and in some of the poorer provinces.  Again, the problem is not a lack of money but of education, training, administration, communication, mobilisation and the optimum utilisation of resources.



Slide 10


A continuation of sound and pragmatic economic policies
South Africa has won the admiration of a sceptical international financial community for the manner in which it has managed its economic, fiscal and trade policies.  We should not deviate from a winning formula.


Slide 11


The Challenge of Diversity

One of the key success factors for South Africa will be the manner in which it manages the challenge of diversity.


In his State of the Nation speech earlier this year  President Mbeki  said that all of us would have to internalise the reality that our very collective future depends on the ability of all our people to grasp an important reality – the fact that the success of black South Africa is conditional on the success of white South Africa, and that the success of white South Africa is conditional on the success of black South Africa.  “If indeed we all came to understand this, together we would have to answer the question as to what white South Africa should do to ensure that black South Africa succeeds, and what black South Africa should do the ensure that white South Africa succeeds!”


Slide 12



If we adopt common sense policies and are motivated by the values in our constitution there is every reason to believe that South Africa will become the first African country to join the ranks of the first world.  By doing so we will also help the rest of our continent to move toward the vision of the African renaissance.


A key element of success will, however, be continuing open and frank communication between all the main role-players:


In this way we will be able to develop a South African common sense consensus for success.  In this way we will be able to build a winning country and achieve the vision of the African renaissance.


[1] Mail & Guardian online, 21 July 2004

[2] Haroon Bhorat, unpublished document , University of Cape Town 2003 based on October Household Survey 1995 and Labour Force Survey February 2002, quoted by Servaas van den Berg, Cape Times 27 February 2004

[3] “Losing our Minds: Migration and the ‘Brain Drain’ from South Africa by Jonathan Crush, David McDonald, Vincent Williams, Robert Mattes, Wayne Richmond, C.M. Rogerson and J.M. Rogerson 10 October 2001.







The FW de Klerk Foundation: Zeezicht Building, Tygerberg Office Park, 163 Hendrik Verwoerd Drive, Plattekloof 7500, South Africa. P O Box 15785, Panorama, 7506, South Africa. Tel 0027 (0) 21 930 3622. Fax: 0027 (0) 21 930 0995. Email: Website:

[4] This Day, 8 April 2004