The government's rationale for privatisation, which is a central element of Gear was that it would render state enterprises profitable, stimulate growth, create more jobs and realise a target of R18 billion from the proceeds of privatisation during the 2000/2001 fiscal year with which to reduce the budget deficit.

It is common knowledge that the anticipated benefits of job creation and profitability are still elusive.  The process has been characterised by massive job losses through retrenchments without corresponding substitutes created elsewhere as a consequence thereof.

The beneficiaries of privatisation have been a selected few from the party elite who have since become instant millionaires. Moreover, if the target of R18 billion does not materialise, the consequence will be diversion of expenditure from other national priorities with disastrous effects for delivery.

The UDM has consistently reasoned against this approach and pointed out the irony of a government which ascended to power on the promises of alleviating poverty and joblessness and correcting historical imbalances, now pursues conservative neo-liberal policies which put profits and enrichment of a few above people's needs. The rich become richer and the poor are relegated to unparalleled levels of poverty. The high levels of corruption and mismanagement have further exacerbated the problems of privatisation to the detriment of the disadvantaged who should have been the prime beneficiaries of any re-structuring program in the post-apartheid era.

The contradictions of an alliance government, which embraces policies that are inimical to the interests of one of its partners, COSATU, are sharpening at an accelerated pace. Some of the leading lights of the SACP, ostensibly a workers' party are at the driving seat of an economic policy which negates the interests of the poor whom they claim to represent. The SACP and COSATU face difficult choices, either to swim with the neo-liberal tide, or jettison the ship and assume their historic roles of championing workers interests in their respective situational capacities. I.e. SACP should disengage from a conservative government and take an independent path in-keeping with their political and economic orientation, while COSATU should depoliticise and direct its energies to fighting workers' issues outside party-political affiliations. The SACP must not parasitically survive from an unholy alliance with the ANC. They are strange bedfellows whose only common denominator is the gravy train. Sadly, the interest of the poor are sacrificed at the tables of conspicuous consumption in both communist and ANC camps.

The Minister of Finance must come out into the open and tell the nation where it will recover the targeted R18 billion if it is not realized from the proceeds of privatisation during the current financial year.

Bantu Holomisa
082 552 4156

24 July 2001