About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Economic Issues

If there is one message that has come from the Nedcor/Old Mutual scenario presentation, it is that South Africa needs a powerful economic engine if our political transition is to lead to a democratic outcome.

Samuel Huntington's writings on democratisation re-emphasise that point (if that is necessary). Economic growth is a fundamental pillar of a soundly functioning state. That much, at least, is beyond dispute, even in South Africa when sometimes everything seems to be in the terrain of the contentious.

But a second consensus is also, slowly, emerging. And that is that economic growth, by itself, is not going to be enough to impact on South Africa's enormous problems of mass poverty and wealth inequality. It is to this second set of issues that the next 30 pages are dedicated.

The publication, by the United Nations, of an annual Human Development Report is most welcome. Both editions published to date are excellent, and Monitor is delighted to reproduce the overview excerpted from the 1991 report. It's good to know that we in South Africa are part of a broader developing world, littered with failures, sometimes expensive failures, yes, but punctuated by some successful development policies also.

Charles Simkins, an exceptional thinker, takes us further into the characteristics of developing countries. This essay was part of Charles's inaugural lecture as Helen Suzman Professor of Political Economics at the University of the Witwatersrand, and is equally valuable and deserving of as wide a circulation as possible. The full lecture is due to be printed by the University of Natal Political Science Journal, Theoria, and readers are recommended to that publication for the full text.

More Simkins follows. A shorter extract from another paper this time, but it gives us some clues as to what is necessary to get our half-dead economy back onto a growth path.

Then Francis Wilson.

Wilson has been around for an awfully long time. He hit into one of the core tyrannies of South Africa twenty years ago, with his work on migrant labour. And he broke open, in vast detail, our central economic problem of our future - mass poverty - when he coordinated the enormous intellectual endeavour of the Second Carnegie Enquiry into Poverty and Development in South Africa.

He remains now, as then, a Professor of Economics and a director of a research institute. He is back at another cutting edge of our society in his work to regenerate Fort Hare University. If there is an honour in being on Monitor's cover, we're pleased to award it to Francis, a man of endless energy, rigid principle and massive intellect.

This section closes with a visual reminder that we do, in fact, have rural areas in South Africa; that those areas are uniquely deprived; and that white and black alike are finding it very difficult there. Paul Weinberg's pictures of the Karoo bring us to the part of the rural areas, and reveal affection, irony and difficulties all at once.

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