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Does Good News "trend" in South Africa?

Mention the words, "good news" or "positive news" and you will invariably be accused of sunshine journalism by many sclerotic journalists. Talk of the "glass half-full vs glass half-empty" and you may well be accused of being naive.

So, what good news is "trending" in South Africa?

Zac Yacoob, a former Judge of the Constitutional Court says, "from the onset it must be said that the first 20 years of democracy in South Africa have been undeniably and inestimably better than any 20-year period under apartheid rule could ever have been - in quality and quantity. And this is true in almost every aspect of life".

Below I identify six items of "good news" that, in my view, have been "trending" for a number of years.

We have a Potent Private Sector

In three major measures of private sector performance South Africa excels. Firstly,worldwide, the King Reports are recognised as the global benchmark on corporate governance.

Over the past five years our rankings have improved in the following measures of private sector competence:

Measure and ranking

Strength of Auditing and Reporting: 1

Regulation of Securities Exchange: 1

Efficacy of Corporate Boards: 1

Protection of Minority Shareholders: 1

Legal Rights Index: 1

Availability of Financial Services: 2

Finance through local Equity Market: 2

Soundness of Banks: 3

The Global Competitiveness Report measures the performance of 148 countries (32 in Africa). Our private sector institutional reputation is the envy of the world.

Secondly, the performance of our private sector, its ability to expand globally and its returns are, for a country of our size, hard to beat. As Prof. Nick Binedell from GIBS reminds us, -"there are no mid-sized developing economies with companies that have the global presence of SA: SAB Miller, Billiton, Investec, Standard Bank, Naspers, Woolworths, Murray & Roberts to name a few". Generally, the results of many of our listed companies are stellar, offering returns that are the envy of many similar businesses around the world.

Thirdly, the ROI on our local bourse, the Johannesburg Securities Exchange, has been ahead of most bourses around the world for the past five years. Since January 2014 the returns have exceeded 20%.

The private sector "trends" have been around for many years and are unlikely to change in the near future.

Our Robust Civil Society

"SA will be able to count on a vibrant civil society and strong institutions to keep politicians in check," says Sharon Chetty of the Financial Mail.

There are 100 000 NGO's operating in SA in, you name it, health, education, childcare, HIV, early childhood development, youth unemployment, foetal alcohol syndrome, abandoned babies - the list is endless.

On our website, www.sagoodnews.co.za we feature "Amazing South Africans" as a sequel to "Remarkable South Africans". We tell a different story every week of what ordinary South Africans are doing to make a difference, and have been doing so for three years.

Corporate giving in South Africa is estimated at R6 Billion per annum and more and more companies are enabling employer assisted volunteering. FNB alone has more than 15 000 staff engaged in volunteering.

Private giving is estimated at R12 billion per annum as ordinary individuals from all walks of life do their bit for social upliftment.

Furthermore, civil society activity is not limited to the NGO sector and corporate CSI. The labour movement too is becoming frustrated with government performance and is threatening to establish a "worker's party" to combat corruption, ineptitude, cronyism and graft.

South Africa is home to a range of large civil society institutions such as the Free Market Foundation, Corruption Watch, the SA Institute of Race Relations, the National Education Initiative and Lead SA (to name a few), organisations that are determined to both "keep politicians in check" and make a social difference.

And let's not forget the Public Protector and our democratic institutions.

This positive "trend" of a vibrant civil society is in our DNA, it will always be with us and is the real source of hope for our future - not that of current political leadership.

A Virulent Media

There are a number of characteristics of our media we can be proud of. For a country comprising 52 million people we have a larger number of daily newspapers, community radio stations, TV stations, journals and indigenous language magazines than any country of a comparable size.

We also have a constitutional right to freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of expression which manifests in the ongoing exposure of corrupt, incompetent and incapable government officials.

"This has resulted in a heightened consciousness of the rule of law; a self confidence among many poor people that they are entitled to basic rights; an intolerance toward graft; and a sense that ordinary people will have to become masters of their own destiny", says Palesa Morudu, a Cape-Town based journalist.

While government tries to duck, obfuscate, postpone and contest much of what the media unearths our media does not give up. We hang in there with our no-holes-barred cartoons, penetrating investigative journalism and explosive reporting - just consider for a moment the number of scandals that have been exposed this year.

Our journalists won't let go and they must not!

Massive Social Upliftment

The "trend" of social upliftment in South Africa is recognised globally. The Economist (August 2) reports: "Almost half of SA's skilled workers and 40% of its senior managers are now black. Schools once reserved for whites are now filled with faces in all hues of the rainbow nation. Absolute poverty amongst blacks has fallen sharply. Most homes now have clean water (92%) and electricity (88%)".

City Press reported recently that:

* 72% of citizens own electric stoves

* 69% own TV's

* 57% own fridges

* 12% own vehicles

Carol Paton, in Business Day (August 5) reports that close on half of all households in SA receive some form of social grant, just more than 50% live in a formal dwelling and 85% are connected to the national grid. There are 16.2 million recipients of social grants - 11 million are children, 3.4 million are pensioners and 1.8 million are disabled.

More and more research indicates that the "trend" emerging from this social upliftment is growing entrepreneurship at the bottom of the social pyramid.

Professor Brian Kantor and labour economist Loane Sharp argue that using the currency demand method of calculating the size of the informal sector, it could be as high as 21%. Therefore unemployment, people out of work, could be as low as 11%.

This growth of the informal sector "trend" is reducing inequality, poverty and unemployment and should be recognised as such through the collection of more accurate data.

Sound Economic Policy

The Economist (August 2) says, "The ANC's muddled politics are failing to please even its most loyal supporters, many of whom are either hardened trade unionists or are decidedly middle-class. Until it decides which group it hopes to serve, it is likely to keep haemorrhaging votes without giving the economy the boost that is so badly needed".

Our economic growth is spluttering along at 1.8% because of policy argument and indecision within government which is drying up foreign direct investment.

So while the world recognises the competence of Finance Minister Nene and his predecessors, Gordhan and Manuel in controlling inflation and managing our debt and deficit investors continue to look elsewhere as mining policy, labour dynamics, infrastructure planning, land reform and BBBEE ministries "seem to be doing their best to deter investment".

Nevertheless the hard work by Treasury, the Reserve Bank, SARS and the Department of Finance is set to continue. The market cap of the JSE has quadrupled from $230 billion in 1994 to $900 billion today. As Tito Mboweni, former Reserve Bank Governor says: "the challenge is not to destroy the gains we have made".

Long may this "trend" continue.

And....Reducing Crime

Gareth Newham, head of Governance, Crime and Justice at the Institute of Securities Studies writes, "The good news is that most crimes of interpersonal violence have decreased over the past 20 years, since 1994 our murder rate has dropped by 53.5%". We have had successes in firearm control. The SAPS budget has increased from R6 billion in 1994 to R67 billion today and our police force has grown from 120 000 from 190 000 staff. But there have been some setbacks - attacks in homes and against businesses have increased significantly, scandals at top leadership levels have undermined discipline and the focus on quantity rather than quality has been damaging to morale."

Interestingly in the Global Competitiveness Report tells that "crime and theft" have dropped from #1 to #7 as one of "the most problematic factors for doing business", behind the following: inadequately trained workforce, restrictive labour regulations, inefficient government bureaucracy, corruption, poor work ethic and inadequate supply of infrastructure. Makes you think.

Nevertheless, despite crime remaining an issue, with many terrible "events" still occupying the headlines the overall "trend" tells a positive story. As Newham concludes, "Our duty as citizens is to put pressure on our politicians to implement the NDP. With honest and experienced police leadership, improvements will still occur and policing will become the respected profession that it should be".

Conclusion

There are just some of the good news trends we have going for us. Quite frankly I think we are about to see the back of the worst period of government since the ANC came to power in 1994. The ANC's obsession with protecting the party first and governing the country second will be the cause of their demise.

The metro elections in 2016 will be the game changer.

Article courtesy: SA Good News

 

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Saturday, 01 June 2013
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