FIKILE-NTSIKELELO MOYA: There are more pressing issues than the SARB's mandate


In his attempt to topple George HW Bush as president in 1992, former US president Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist James Carville coined the slogan, “it is the economy, stupid”.

It is easily one of the most memorable political election campaign slogans anywhere. Not only was it catchy, it also laid the issues bare for everyone to see.

I am sure many South Africans who are increasingly having to make do with less, who are losing their jobs and having their businesses shut down, would probably wish that the most pressing matter in the minds of those in charge of government or the governing party was the economy.

Instead, day after day, South Africans are accosted with stories about philosophical and ideological discussions whose bearing on the course of our economy is not being made obvious to anyone who is listening.

You would swear that those waxing lyrical have not heard the news of just how the economy is ailing and how many people who want work cannot find any.

Just last week we got news that the GDP contracted at an alarming 3.2% during the first quarter of 2019 against the final quarter of 2018.

Last month, Statistics South Africa told us the joblessness rate had risen to 27.6% from 27.1% at the end of 2018.
When those who are discouraged from looking for work are included, the unemployment rate stands at 38%.

Towards the end of last year, Stats SA told us about 3,2 million (31,1%) out of 10,3 million young people aged 15-24 were not in employment, education or training (NEET).

Under such circumstances, you would think that the matter occupying Luthuli House would be how to have short-, medium- and long-term plans to redirect what is an obvious pathway to a cliff.

Instead, we are all made to have to scratch our heads and go to the news archives to figure out what the ANC conference resolution on the South African Reserve Bank was.

Being the central bank, there is no doubt that the Reserve Bank plays an important role in the economic fortunes of the country.

What is doubtful though is whether the current debates around its future and its mandate are helpful or even urgent under the present economic conditions. Those who say they are, would do well to show everyone how this is so.

I admit that I do not know if there is research on the topic, but I doubt if the average South African is concerned with whether Eskom is split into three or three hundred as long as they will have cheap and reliable electricity.

I have listed just two, but I could add many other discussions that occupy the collective mind at Luthuli House and certainly give political commentators material to prove the rampant factionalism inside the ANC but do little to change the price of bread.

Put differently, the governing party and South Africa can ill-afford conversations that do nothing more than prove who is cleverer and how many books and seminars they have attended. It is the economy, stupid. Can we get serious now?

Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is an independent journalist and former editor of The Mercury and The Witness.