Privatisation is not a solution to the problem of dispossession in a country like South Africa.
This was the overall message of the two-person panel discussion on the impact of privatisation that took place at the Origins Centre last night.
Dr Christoph Hermann, from the University of Vienna, and Wits Professor Christopher Malikane unpacked the effects of privatisation in Europe and South Africa to highlight the “economic blunders” that result from the process.
Privatisation in South Africa
Malikane explained how colonialism has led to the unfair enrichment of a minority, leaving the majority of South Africans in unequal economic circumstances.
[pullquote]“The big companies in South Africa have been founded on the colonial dispossession of South Africans,”[/pullquote]
“South Africa has a historical problem which it needs to resolve,” he said. The majority of people were dispossessed of a means of survival. “The big companies in South Africa have been founded on the colonial dispossession of South Africans,” he said.
The problem with privatisation is that many people in the country may not have the means to acquire private assets, according to Malikane. He used the examples of ISCOR, Telkom and SASOL to demonstrate the failures of privatisation. Through the privatisation of these companies South Africa had given up the capacity to manufacture steel, to drive telecommunications and to produce petro-chemicals, according to Malikane. The sale of strategic assets was simply “a blunder, an economic blunder,” he stressed.
Malikane suggested that the solution would be to consult the Freedom Charter, “People shall share in the country’s wealth”. Banks and monopoly industries should be transferred to South Africans, he said.
The discussion was hosted by Rethink Africa and Young Economists for Africa (YEA) who also facilitated a networking event after the discussion.