Facilitating conversations around transformation in South Africa

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Stuart Diamond (Executive Director Cape SAJBD), Tim Harris, Marianne Merten, Johnny Copelyn, Rael Kaimowitz (Chairman Cape SAJBD)

The Cape Board held another well-attended transformation conversation around the theme of Unlocking Shared Wealth and Prosperity on 24 October, asking how the community could share its expertise with others. 

Among the guests were Alderman Belinda Walker, Councillor Anda Ntsodo chairperson of the Economic Opportunities and Asset Management Portfolio Committee, and Mark Rountree, head of Policy Development for the Good party.

To set the scene, former ANC MP and CEO of Hosken Consolidated Investments Jonny Copelyn outlined the development issues in South Africa as he saw them. The world today was richer and healthier than it was forty years ago, yet South Africa, since Zuma, had fallen behind. He contrasted South Africa with Israel, a smaller country without our mineral wealth, yet which had increased its growth and decreased its deficit. On the brighter side, he noted that there was much mobility and nothing was cast in stone. Israel’s success was due to the educational and high tech opportunities provided. 

South Africa needed more employment opportunities and small businesses were best placed to create jobs. Zuma has shaken the foundation of trust in the country. Investors need to have trust in the future of the country. This trust will be restored under the new president who had instituted the Commission of Inquiry into allegations of State Capture, had been removing corrupt people from power, and the possibility that NPA would soon be embarking on arrests. 

Marianne Merten, Daily Maverick’s parliamentary correspondent, saw little good news and had many concerns. She agreed that we were the most unequal country in the world with a broken education system and huge unemployment and racially entrenched inequality. 

The white community should admit that they had benefitted from white privilege and the intergenerational wealth, which had given them access to networks lacking to the new larger black middle class. The structural inequality built into the society was still there although the life expectancy had increased since President Mbeki’s day and 90% now had access to running water. Despite the Zondo Commission, few people had been arrested, but it was important because it had told the story. She encouraged the Jewish community to give back to the country, to be engaged citizens, to write to the newspapers, to members of parliament and to councillors and to take action when they had concerns. 

Tim Harris, the CEO of Wesgro, the Tourism, Trade and Investment Agency of Cape Town and the Western Cape, had a far more positive outlook. The Western Cape did not represent the country and it had opportunities the rest of the country lacked. It was an international economic and tourist destination with visits from investors, tourists, filmmakers and conference participants spending six billion rands each year. 

Three quarters of the jobs created in South Africa were created in the Western Cape, and half of the country’s agricultural exports came from here. Investors from USA, UK and Germany came here because Cape Town was on the doorstep of the rest of Africa, regarded as an untapped market. More than ten thousand students from the rest of Africa attended Western Cape universities. The secret to growth, said Tim, was in attracting knowhow — not through education, but from people who understood how to do the job and the Cape, with a liberal immigration policy for knowledge, was open to getting talent from across the world.  Cape Town had lowered its unemployment rate because it was open to in-migrants, many coming from Gauteng.

Questions were asked from the floor about drought, desalination, and the living reality of gang violence. Guests went away with Copelyn’s message that within five years’ time they would see a better South Africa.

To read the editor’s column for December/January click here

To read or download the December/January issue of the Chronicle in PDF click  here

To read the most read article of the November issue, click here

Portal to the Jewish Community: to see a list of all the Jewish organisations in Cape Town with links to their websites, click here

Featured organisation of the month: The Jewish Community Services’ (JCS) activities are centered on relief for the poor and distressed in the Jewish community. They provide a full range of preventative, educative and supportive counselling, statutory services as well as material relief. Visit http://www.jcs.org.za  for more.

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