It's not all doom and gloom in South Africa‚ says IRR

30 August 2018 - 07:42 By Nico Gous
‘Life in South Africa: Reasons for Hope’, reminds South Africans of the significant progress the country has made under democracy.
‘Life in South Africa: Reasons for Hope’, reminds South Africans of the significant progress the country has made under democracy.
Image: 123RF/ammentorp

Despite the feeling of doom and gloom‚ South Africa is better off than it was in 1994.

“There is a lot to be proud of and in no way is it true to say that ‘South Africa is no better than it was in 1994’‚ or that ‘South Africans have refused to work together to bring about change’‚” the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) concluded in its latest research report‚ “Life in South Africa: Reasons for Hope”.

“The effects of higher levels of investment-driven growth‚ and sensible policy‚ particularly in the era to 2007‚ provided the government with the revenues to bring about vast improvements in living standards via its service delivery efforts‚” the report said. 

The IRR believes “as much as it courts controversy”‚ service delivery has been one of the ANC's successes in government.

“This is not to overlook the many and varied failures both in the extent and in the quality of services delivered. Nor is it to suggest that state-driven delivery is a sustainable path out of poverty.”

But the IRR believes entrepreneurs‚ investors‚ employers and employees - “whose hard work and risk-taking generated the tax revenue that funded the free and subsidised houses and services‚ and social welfare” - deserve more credit than government.

“Too often‚ these entrepreneurs and the middle classes are hounded as an uncaring and selfish elite who have done nothing to bring about a better future. They have done a great deal and deserve great credit.”

According to the IRR‚ here are some of South Africa’s successes:

  • Inflation dropped from 9% in 1994 to 5.3% in 2017;
  • 10 formal houses were built for every shack erected;
  • Formal housing increased by 131% after 1996;
  • Families with electricity increased by 192%;
  • Families with access to clean water increased by 110%;
  • The number of black people employed increased from 4.9 million in 1994 to more than 12 million in 2017;
  • The middle class has doubled;
  • The number of students enrolled at universities increased almost threefold since 1985;
  • The total number of employees roughly doubled; and
  • The murder rate halved since democracy.

The report warns against the “radical inflection of government policy after 2007”‚ which harmed the economy and stalled progress made up to that point.

The IRR is‚ however‚ worried expropriation without compensation could erode South Africa's progress and change the living-standards trajectory for the worse.

“If policymakers can adopt sensible ideas that draw investment‚ create new wealth and jobs‚ and grow the economy‚ then there is no reason to believe that the trajectory our country was on into 2007 cannot be resumed‚” the report said.

“It is now more certain than ever that‚ if the requisite degree of economic performance cannot again be secured‚ reckless and dangerous commentators and politicians in our midst may deflect public criticism of their own failures down lines of populist and nationalist incitement. That must be stopped if our hope for a better future is to be realised.”