from Louis in Johannesburg, South Africa: Collateral Economic Damage

April 6. Collateral economic damage is focusing on the small, micro and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs). They are mostly in start-up mode and developing. They do not yet have the reserves to sustain themselves over the coming contraction if the economy post-Covid19. Many of them have let some or all of their employees go, and many have continued paying full or part wages. The electrician, Greg in our suburb, who services electrical installations and more recently our security lights is in this category. He has a team of three semiskilled assistants. He has put them on leave with full pay until the crisis passes. The suffering of these now unemployed workers as a result of a decline in work may lead to negative social dynamics.

The first movers in providing support to this sector was Nicky and Jonathan Oppenheimer and Johann Rupert of Remgro both providing R1bn contributions to the SMME sector. Since the fearless Minister of Small Business Development tried, unsuccessfully, to impose racial criteria for benefitting from these funds, donors have quietly gone about moving their contributions out of reach. Patrick Motsepe of African Rainbow Minerals has since provided his R1bn, and Naspers has provided R1.5 bn. Mary Oppenhiemer and her four daughters have also provided R1bn. The R500mn support offered by the government from tax monies pales into insignificance in the face of these generous private sector donors.

In a country where much-maligned White Monopoly Capital (WMC)  is being scape-goated for societal inequality, the usual chorus of voices is now silent. The highest noise is made by the so-called Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). This political party has a growing support base from unemployed youth and other economically illiterate folks. Their preferred models for economic development are Zimbabwe, Venezuela and other failing or failed states. The EFF neither understands economic freedom, nor has it taken the responsibility to run a town or metro where its lack of economic literacy would become apparent. It does understand fighting and has used this tactic effectively to put pressure on Past President Zuma.

Young Julius Malema is the so-called leader calling himself the “Commander in Chief” of the EFF. Fanciful. He has threatened genocide on whites in SA to draw attention to his populist ideas. His opportunism is wearing thin with the population. His constituency is the unemployed youth who could yet be exploited and turned towards a fascism bent post Covid19 where the economy tanks. Surveys indicate that race relations are intact but fraying at the edges. Most of the populist voices and factions are silent in the face of clear leadership from the President. Heaven forbid this should change.

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