Calling South African conservatives…

The concept of conservatism isn’t particularly prevalent in South Africa, and it’s easy to understand why: there isn’t much to conserve. There’s no era of our history which could be called especially “good”, and we’ve yet to experience any span of political and economic cohesion. What is there to hold on to? 

Right-wing politics cannot be detached from the idea that social changes should be prevented from taking place too quickly. In our terms, there’s no room for slowing down. The problems plaguing our country are too grave in nature to require a modest approach. Our reforms must be radical and swift. 

Still, the constant ramblings of left-wing politicians and name-brand, copy-paste socialist parties has become trite. Your options for voting come down to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which is some weird form of totalitarian socialism, the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) champagne socialism, or the ANC, who stick to the stereotype of socialist governments by doing nothing but inflating their own pockets and redistributing almost nothing to the poor.

You’d be hard-pressed to convince me that the EFF or DA would be any different, mind you; the red-beret-wearing Army of the Poor have already having been indicted in their own share of corruption allegations, while John Steenhuisen is faced with the gruelling task of trying to hold his party together as its identity falls apart. 

Not everyone wants handouts. The media spins its wheels recycling the mud of the latest racist scandal and “impending” land expropriations and reasons to be mad at Julius Malema, when in actual fact and by survey the biggest worries for South Africans are employment, security and housing. 

It’s understandable: the average South African wants to be able to do an honest day’s work for a good wage. It isn’t an unreasonable expectation. Yet our political parties are more interested in trying to salvage their bankrupt branches and disincentivising foreign investment and private sectors with their lazy rhetoric. 

The left-right political compass is essentially a flawed system, but that doesn’t mean there’s no place for alignment to the simplicities of what we need to address: jobs, wages, economy. A stable economy and access to decent jobs means less crime, it means a growing middle class, and that means incentive for investors to offer bigger and more exciting opportunities to average South African citizens. 

This isn’t a call to dissolve South Africa’s social benefits, but isn’t it time we made space for a call to something else? Social programmes rarely work, and while it would be unwise to leave the down and out out and down, a reliance on state handouts is not the pinnacle of society. 

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough money in the country to lift every South African out of poverty, and if there was, you’d probably find it in the back pockets of a small handful. That’s why we’d be wise to stop asking for the government to take care of people, and rather ask them to incentivise economic growth, better wages, end their stifling restrictions on private sectors such as mining and (gasp!) airlines and let foreign investment offer jobs to South Africans.

Although he hasn’t accepted labelling for his ideologies, Herman Mashaba’s new Action SA Party is at least calling for the right things: rather than promising to fix everything with an endless pit of tax money, he suggests we fix our broken education system, incentivise investment, bring in jobs, and stimulate the economy so that better wages can be offered. 

I took the time to argue with someone who called him a populist in an insulting tone. I find it funny that giving people what they want is considered unpopular in a democracy. 

Call it right-wing if you want, but the terms are so muddied in our age of politics that it’d probably be a misnomer. Still, we’ve tried leftism for long enough: isn’t it time we embraced something else? 

The current voices for a free market economy in this country have a hard road ahead of them. It isn’t an idea that has circulated in the country for very long. Yet, if we are to turn our economy around, it’s vital that we make it a popular one.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.

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