How to win the war against crime.
There is a growing realisation by Government and business leaders in South Africa that increasing foreign and domestic investment in the economy will drop to a trickle unless the scourge of a galloping crime rate is brought to heel.
A spokesman for the South African Chamber of Commerce, Mr Ken Warren, maintains that the fear of crime has already begun to scare-off foreign investors and that many local businesses -- including small-scale enterprises -- have been forced to close down as a consequence.
Many analysts opine that a massive job-creation drive by the Government could significantly reduce the related problems of crime and unemployment, but it would appear from Government statements that they are more inclined towards tougher measures.
President Nelson Mandela alluded to this in a recent speech in which he said that tackling increasing "lawlessness" was at the top of his Government's priorities, promising that the security forces would use "strong action" if that was what was needed.
However, according to Mr Dani Nina, the prominent South African criminologist, tougher measures on crime would be nothing but an extension of apartheid policies, which would further alienate many youths who already feel excluded by society because they have yet to taste the fruits of liberation.
Mr Nina, who contends that the new administration must strive to provide more educational and job opportunities for the apartheid-dispossessed, said: "Strong arm methods only mean more apartheid. Everyone could have a second opportunity to be re-socialised into the acceptable values of the community."
International economists are agreed that only by creating a climate favourable to the establishment and growth of micro-enterprises can the Mandela Administration begin to successfully address crime and the other structural problems that are carryovers from the racist, apartheid state.
"Small businesses have a central role to play in creating employment," says Professor Jonathan Leape, Director of the Centre for Research into Economics and Finance in South Africa at the London School of Economics. "The small and medium-scale manufacturing sector is the engine for employment growth readily available to the Government."
Latest figures show that reported crime has shot up 30% since the dismantling of apartheid, while unemployment is 50% and rising. The living standards of Africans are estimated to be one-third that of their white countrymen.
The euphoria that followed black majority rule has all but dissipated, with periodic labour unrests and stringent African calls for a fairer share of the nation's abundant wealth.
Satisfying African expectations will be an uphill task for the Government. Large corporations, despite rising investment, are cutting work forces in order to remain competitive. while the budget deficit precludes any big employment drive in the public sector.
Even with the implementation of the African National Congress led Government's Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) -- comprising an ambitious house building and road construction scheme which will provide thousands of jobs -- room for an adequate job creation manoeuvre in the state sector is limited.
This fact is brought into bolder relief when seen against the backdrop of the Government's proposed privatisations of many parastatals by the summer in order to cut public expenditure.
Mr Emin Eyi, an analyst at Barings Securities, said: "The Government has to step in to encourage new entrepreneurial talent to enter the small-scale industry and improve conditions for them to create sustainable employment for those out of work. This could lead to increased productivity."
While South Africa is by far the largest and most productive economy on the continent, its small and medium-scale manufacturing base, when compared to other countries in the region, belies this.
Such manufacturing activity comprises 47% of small business activity in Freetown, Sierra Leone, but in South African townships it is a mere 17%. Comparable figures for Maseru, Lesotho and Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire are 36% and 32% respectively.
This dearth of small manufacturing activity can be attributed to apartheid, which among other things, systematically excluded Africans from skills-training and education, denied them work experience and, not least, access to capital and markets.
Recent surveys of small-scale entrepreneurs in clothing and metalworks enterprises in the townships found that half of them went into business after failing to find employment elsewhere, while 23% did so in order to supplement household incomes.
These surveys are incontrovertible proof -- if any were required -- that the entrepreneurial spirit is very much alive and kicking among disadvantaged Africans who, because small businesses are inherently labour-intensive, could in turn provide jobs for tens of thousands who would otherwise be dependent on the state and on the "crime dividend".
As a first step towards fulfilling the potential of the small-scale manufacturing sector, the Government should institute a radical review of financial services now available to small firms, including access to capital from retail banks, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and government agencies.
Among other steps the Government should be taking are the provision of skills-training support to small entrepreneurs and their staff and implementing policies that permit easier access to export markets.
One only has to look at the experiences of countries such as China, Turkey and India -- all of which procure raw material inputs from South Africa for their micro-enterprises -- to recognise the vital role the sector can play in development.
South Africa exports ore to China, with which microenterprises make pots, pans and other steel goods for export to earn valuable foreign exchange. The same applies to both India and Turkey, who buy gold from the country to make jewellery for which they have become famous on the international market.
South Africa, meanwhile, has no jewellery industry to speak of. There is more than enough slack in the raw materials processing sector that small and medium-scale manufacturing businesses can take up, from processing vegetables, beef, tea and other agricultural produce to making silver, gold and diamond jewellery for the export market.
It is small businesses that grow into big corporations. The Government must begin now by sowing the seeds of economic growth in a relatively crime-free society by providing the necessary incentives for microenterprises. There is already a base on which to build -- and positive examples to emulate.
The paucity of small-scale manufacturing activity in South Africa is a paradox in a country with such great industrial potential and, moreover, one with the resources and potential to trigger the economic regeneration of countries in the Southern Africa sub-region and those further afield in Sub-Saharan Africa.
RELATED ARTICLE: United World Colleges in SA
The famous United World Colleges (UWC) is to set up an agricultural foundation near Krugersdorp, South Africa. According to the local UWC trustee, Mr Ghaleb Cachalia, the SA Development and Agricultural College, expected to be in place in two years, will have satellite links with colleges all over the country and it will feed into the remotest areas.
The UWC movement, which aims to promote peace thorough education, began some 30 years ago when the German educator Mr Kurt Hahn established the first institution at the Atlantic College, in Wales, UK. A castle on the rugged Welsh coastline was bequeathed by the American tycoon, Mr Randolf Hirst to the movement.
Today, there are nine colleges situated in different parts of the world: UWC Canada, Waterford-Kamhlaba in Swaziland, Armad Hammer college in New Mexico, UWC of the Adriatic in Italy, Lee Pu Hon college in Hong Kong, UWC of South-East Asia in Singapore, UWC Nordic in Norway and an agricultural college in Venezuela. The original vision of the movement was to give young people from different countries and backgrounds the opportunity of living and studying together. An important element is service to the local community. Students study for an International Baccalaureate which is universally recognised as a university entrance qualification.
Late last year, SA President Nelson Mandela and Queen Noor of Jordan were installed as joint Presidents of UWC at a ceremony in Johannesburg. A Mandela Fund for African students to study at all the nine colleges has been started.
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|Title Annotation:||South Africa's high crime rate|
|Date:||Apr 1, 1996|
|Next Article:||Sluggish start to ZCCM sell off.|