Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Anyone in desperate need of money has deeply regretted not having sold his house last year during times of prosperity, for he will now need to accept any small amount of money he can fetch for it while markets are depressed. The State is in a similar situation, as it considers privatising some of its unnecessary assets, but in fact its situation is much worse.
President Zuma has announced an expansion of our social programmes, especially in terms of public employment and social grants. There is discussion of having a national system of health insurance, which is something I personally endorse as nothing is more important than ensuring that anyone may receive medical assistance when they need it.
But all this, no matter how meritorious, means spending more money.
Where does the money come from? There are only two avenues; our taxes and borrowing money to be repaid in the future through our taxes and our children’s taxes. In the end, the money comes from us and nowhere else.
But this year, and in all likelihood in the next few years, tax collection is going to be dramatically reduced as both companies and individuals will have less income because of the global depression.
There will be a temptation to raise taxes, which will increase the depth and length of the depression.
Like many families do during harsh times, our State must offer to raise money by selling its family silver, especially all that we do not need. Since 1992, I have been advocating privatisation for our country to redress the economic imbalances created by apartheid during the period of sanctions and disinvestment.
At that time, nobody would lease aircraft to our companies and therefore our airlines were forced to over-capitalise by purchasing their own aircraft and setting up expensive facilities to maintain them. Therefore, it made sense for the Government to own South African Airlines.
However, since liberation there has been no justification for it, especially because the State ownership of the airline has not made it any cheaper or better, but merely placed the State in the unacceptable position of unfairly competing with its own citizens.
The present debate on privatisation aptly commenced by the new Minister in charge, HE Ms Barbara Hogan, takes place against this difficult backdrop. We must privatise as the only way to raise the money we need without increasing taxes or cutting down on delivery of necessary services.
We can only deeply regret not having privatised during times of prosperity and in the past seventeen years that I have been insistently calling for it. We must do it now, but we must do it soundly and without corruption, to avoid privatisation becoming an opportunity for grand scale larceny of State assets by people cleverly plugged into the ANC system of power.
However, privatisation must not stop at getting rid of companies held by the State which have long been a liability on our budget sheet. In this time of austerity, we cannot continue to take money out of our citizens’ pockets to pay the debts of South African Airlines while all other airlines in South Africa seem to be run more efficiently, profitably and competently. We must also privatise and sell off a huge amount of land assets, buildings and infrastructures owned by the Department of Public Works.
It has now been almost ten years since the Department of Public Works undertook a full recognisance of its assets in the process of identifying those which are tied to the exercise of government functions and those which are just held for the sake of holding them.
Just like people in dire need don’t need second homes, so can the State no longer afford to own real estate which it does not use.
In taking these actions, we cannot wait, because any delay merely signifies that all of us, the South African people, will find the hand of the State digging much deeper into our pockets merely because it cannot put its own house in order and find the money it needs elsewhere, including cutting down on unnecessary costs.
Yours in the Service of Our Nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President: Inkatha Freedom Party
Contact: Liezl van der Merwe, 083 611 7470.