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Economic Truth and Reconciliation Commission

21 Jul 2016

The deliberations that took place on the  first day of the WDB Dialogue, have  propmpted  me to write this piece.Whilst  the Truth and Reconciliation Commission  was  in itself a good idea for the country politically- its main drawback  was  that it was  a political  process. Thus it could not address issues that were economic in nature , without such a  process to produce those results.That is why  at the end  of it , the same  State  which initiated  it, and was  not responsible  for all  the atrocities ended  up carrying  the can of redress to the  victims of those atrocities.

What was  missing and has been  missing for all these twenty two years  has been an inquiry into  the manner in which  wealth accumulation  by a few had taken place, at the expense  of the majority. The levels  of inequality  have become so  gross and grotesque that the explanation  that  those at the top of the economic  ladder  did so  through  sheer grit and hardwork is just  not sufficient.

There is more  to it  than this. The  notion  that those at the top  did so through their own  bootstraps just does not cut it.

In its  latest  report, July, 2016, the African Business , has an End Note, right at the back, highlighting   rising levels of inequality  globally, as well as in countries   like Africa. It quotes Kofi Anan, as Chair of the  Africa Progress Panel , saying:

“ Disparities  in basic life chances  -for  health,education and participation in society – are  preventing  millions of Africans   from realizing  their  potential, holding back social and economic progress in the process.”






If this is true  of  the general population, it is  even  more so when it  comes to women in Africa, suffering   tripple oppression of  race, class and  gender.

Anan further  warned of the   long term risks  of rising  inequality and  the  marginalization  of entire sectors of societies – pre-eminently women. 

The report  goes on  to say that  :

“ it  would be naïve  to  think that  the  dynamic of inequality  will simply  work themselves  out. It will  require  determined  leadership from  political,  business and  society  leaders   across the continent to ensure  Anan,s bleak observation   does not  hold  for  long.”

The report  observes  :

“ While there is  nothing  inherently wrong  with wealth, such  disparity should  unnerve  ordinary citizens, policymakers and business  alike. Inequality is  increasing in virtually every country globally today and  there is  little indication  this will  change any time  soon. History is replete  with examples  of what  happens  when the   gap between the haves  and have nots  becomes unsustainable , none  of them appealing.”

This lies at the heart  of a call for an Economic Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which  would   look into  those situations where  trickery, chicanery  and fraud  were  used  in the accumulation of wealth, with or without State  collusion, and  appropriate redress  be fashioned for those  closest  to such victimization.






Those  at the top of  the economic  ladder  must be  called   upon to account as  to  how  they got  there and  make amends  voluntarily so, otherwise  our courts   must  adjudicate  disputes, as it is their function, to administer justice, without fear or favour.

The aim of it all  is  not vindictiveness, but  to begin to chart  a new way  of doing business, unashamedly ethical, and  to embed values like , live and  let live, lift as  you rise , love people first, and steward  the land and other economic resources. These value are immanent and  form an integral  part of Ubuntu. Who can better teach these values  than women?

An Afrikaner farmer in the  Western Cape ,Kosie Van Zyl , made  the  point I found  profound that they , white  people  made the  mistake  of  not loving the  people  of the land  first, and   then steward the land. Instead they fell in love with the land, and despised the  people on the land. He has  turned  people who ex-farm workers and farm dwellers , who were  destitute and without  hope in life, into  farm owners  of three  farms , just outside Caledon, in Napier. Women are at the centre of the  project, also running a Guest House, Agri-Dwala : www.agri-dwala.co.za.     

It  will be appreciated that  historically from the earliest   contact between  indigenous  people  and those  coming from  foreign  lands , the world over, at the  heart  of  land  dispossessions  and other  economic  resources  and means of livelihood, was an economic motive , over and above  the  political  motive.Until  the economic  dimension  is explored and  put right in time, there is a  social time bomb that is ticking away.



Those sitting pretty at the top of the  economic ladder will say there is no point in breaking up the cake and sharing  it among many, it will have the effect of  shrinkage, and so  will be the effect on the economy. Nothing could be further  from the truth, there is  a law that says  what is shared increases. Those who are excluded presently and have been for  decades, with no means  to participate, will now  gain some means  to participate in the economy and thus grow it.

Growth of the  economy as it is  presently structured  only benefits the  few at the  top.  As a matter of fact growth and  inclusivity are not mutually  exclusive.The Africa Progress  Panel observed :

“ Despite  more than a decade of sustained   growth, there is  growing concern over the lack of inclusiveness of this growth.”

When  government itself is not being exemplary, when boards  like the Government Employees Pensions  Fund ( GEPF)consists solely of men, where is inclusiveness in this. How will the women be in a position to influence  how  trillions of  pension funds are  invested?

If women were  also around  the table where decisions are made, the agenda would change. For example , where government only invests R100 million towards a programme aimed  empowering women  to access and own land, such as One Woman, One hectare of land,  it would invest  R1billion in a  Revolving Loan Fund, like  One Acre Fund   and have a target  of funding  1million  women farmers  by 2030. One farmer,  on average  can support  five  people  in a  household, this  by extrapolation means that  five million people  would be  lifted  out of  poverty.

It  is  this dreaming big that will radically change  the high  levels of inequality, and move the country  towards  making  poverty history.




Anything  less is  like  playing while Rome is burning. The youth is very angry about the  lack of radical change in their lives. They say clearly and unequivocally,  that  they are no longer going to put up with having to buy  milk from their own cow, now they want both the cow and the  milk, because they both belong to them.

 It is not as  if we do not have the  means, but we  lack is a  political will to make it happen. We also lack a sense of urgency, about has to happen. Before we are  overrun by events,   as a country ,  we need to move swiftly and introduce measures that will convince them that we  mean business. The  moment is  now  !

“ There is  tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads  to fortune. Omitted all the voyage  of their life is bound  in shallows and miseries. On such a full sea we are now afloat” W. Shakespeare.

As a country we need to move  and move swiftly and decicively.

WDB and SAWID  possibly need  to have  an Advocacy and Lobbying Portfolio where  these  issues  and others  are to be  kept on the Nation,s  radar screen, all the time, until they are  attended to.

This is  just  one  of them.WDB  and SAWID   have  the  moral authority, and have earned   their stripes  as a  voice  for women to raise  this issue and  others that will contribute to women, s total emancipation,  economically, culturally and  otherwise.


By : Dr Wallace  Amos Mgoqi.

12 JULY ,2016.