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Think out the box and into the future

Date Released: Fri, 27 July 2012 15:00 +0200

The Rhodes University Department of Political and International Studies hosted its 10th annual teach-in this week. Shameez Joubert reports on the second of five lectures that focused on the so-called Second Transition as proposed by the ANC.
Thinking out the box, following a new quality of leadership and finding a united long-term goal to bring citizens together is what's necessary to bring about lasting positive change in South Africa. This is according to Joel Netshitenzhe who presented Tuesday's lecture last week at the political teach-in lecture series.
Netshitenzhe has an impressive resume in South Africa's political sphere, from heading the national Government Communication and Information Systems from 1998 to 2006, to now being on the National Planning Commission and working as the executive director of the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (Mistra).
According to the institute's website, Mistra is an organisation “Founded by a group of South Africans with experience in research, academia, policy-making and governance who saw the need to create a platform of engagement around strategic issues facing South Africa”.
They describe themselves as a “think-tank that devotes its attention to strategic approaches to the country’s challenges, from a long-term perspective”.
Netshitenzhe's lecture “Can South Africans forge a social compact for higher growth and development? contributed to demystifying the concept of a “second transition,” proposed by the ANC at its fourth policy conference held in June this year.
According to the ruling party, the first transition in South Africa focused on political emancipation from the apartheid government, and now a second transition is needed with a focus on socio-economic transformation.
Netshitenzhe agreed that “in order to achieve social cohesion we need to deal with our socio-economic legacy,” but maintained that simply saying we need to move into a second phase in governance is problematic, as the criteria to divide the phases is unclear.
"The political, social and economic aspects of South Africa are inextricably linked," he said. Netshitenzhe believes there is the possibility of South Africa forging a social compact, but this would require all citizens to be linked by identifying a long-term goal for the nation.
A new quality of leadership is also needed, Netshitenzhe said. This would be based on how different sectors will benefit, what they could contribute, and most importantly, what they need to sacrifice in order for the end goal to be realised. He encouraged South Africans to start thinking out the box too, like finding ways to take advantage of the green economy.
He said that at present we produce 80% of the world's platinum reserves, which is used to build the cases for hydrogen fuel cells - a highly versatile alternative power source that could be a part of the answer to world energy problems.
"We need agents that would be able to realise these objectives to create a true democracy that acts in everyone's best interests," he said. But Netshitenzhe warned that common causes for concern for all sectors, such as youth marginalisation, unemployment and inequality also need to be addressed.
He pointed out that at present, South Africa's Gini co-efficient is at 0.67%, making us the second most unequal nation in the world. According to figures he gave, a staggering 70% of the country's income comes from 20% of the population. Netshitenzhe warned that inequality is an equal opportunity disease with negative effects for both the rich and the poor.
After Netshitenzhe's talk, Mail and Guardian Online deputy editor Verashni Pillay, who acted as discussant for the week's lectures, agreed with what he had said but emphasised the need for all South African leaders to step up in order for the country to progress.
"This doesn't exempt the business sector, or citizens like ourselves, who also have an important role to play," Pillay said.

• This article appeared on the Grocott’s Mail Website