Black South Africans must shape their own economic future

OPINION – Political parties will not deliver your economic freedom. Recently I read about a spat between two black South Africans, one a leader of a labour organisation and the other an entrepreneur .Their spate was about bling.

It was about how the entrepreneur recently spent a small fortune at his party and how the labour leader saw it is outlandish and unnecessary conspicuous consumption in the midst of poverty. Interestingly enough the leader of a youth wing of a political party, who attended his party, sided with the entrepreneur saying it was the "responsibility" of youth to have a ball.

It is not up to me to sit here and judge or prescribe how people should conduct their lifestyle, but one thing I know for sure is that, unless South African blacks, particularly the working middle class, get their act together with regard to their economic future, they are going to die poor. Unless they ignore the bling brigade, conspicuous consumption and the instant material gratification that drives most of them to take unnecessary risks and spend their money and time on things that build future value, we are going to see increasing black poverty despite efforts to eradicate it. It was last week that someone pointed out to me a very frightening yet real fact that, if we were to strip most men of their wallet and job title who they really are or what they stand for would go rushing out of the door.

From experience, I would encourage that the black middle class not to expect much from political parties. Liberation movements promised us political freedom and they did deliver but post independent political parties have no tangible value to offer. Most of us except access to government tenders and contracts but these typically go to those who they owe favours (ie, those who fund them) and those in leadership positions. As a mere member of a political party, expect nothing in return so do something about your own economic future.

I have many friends who remain poor after years of being political party members and activists and I pity them because they have wasted their lives and energy hoping that uhuru will come one day. They suffer the same delusion that we have suffered in Zimbabwe where ZANU(PF) has  created an economic system based on political patronage and offered us no tangible value unless you are one of them.

Political parties exist for their own interests and those of their leaders. They are there as a channel to political power and that is all they offer. Once in power they become focused on how they can stay in power despite their failure to create new economic systems that benefit the majority. That is their core business whether we like it or not. Now why should young intelligent minds waste their time in pursuing such narrow interests?

Why should you as a South Africa’s black people with huge future prospects burn your energy and effort in being a member of organisations whose sole purpose is very limited and narrow and will not necessarily add value to your future economic well-being? Personally I think political parties are over rated, we tend to take them too seriously but, as we have seen in Zimbabwe, they are by nature unable to stand for the common good for if they did then why would we need to join them?

South Africa has numerous economic opportunities going forward and I would encourage South African black middle class to organise themselves and establish their own companies and take advantage of these. Political parties will not deliver your economic freedom. We have seen that with BEE or BBBEE whatever you call it, it will not work as long as we do not take a personal responsibility to make it happen.

It is a sad phenomenon that thousands if not millions of black South Africans save money through stokvels and burial societies as a habit, but unfortunately the funds are soon spent on goods and services meaning that they remain consumers. Most save for Christmas parties or groceries and this does not improve their economic status and at the beginning of each year they are back where they started. If the billions of funds saved could be utilised to start new business ventures, black South Africans would stop relying on political parties or government for that matter to lift them out of poverty.

In my opinion, until black South Africans realise that all politicians need from them is their vote so that they stay in power and the responsibility of black empowerment lies in their own hands, we are going to see increasing poverty and unmet expectations. Until black South Africans focus less on bling and living for today they will remain mere consumers of designer labels made in China – look where China is today!

The time has come for us as Africans to realise that it is only ourselves who can shape our future and that begins by each one of us taking the responsibility to make it happen.

Vince Musewe is an independent Zimbabwean economist based in South Africa and this article was first published in the moneyweb. He is also chairman and founder of Truth2Power. Lately he is spearheading the establishment of the Patriotic Movement of Diaspora Zimbabweans (PAMODZI). You can contact him on vtmusewe@gmail.com