WHILE some analysts have dismissed political parties’ election promises as unrealistic pipe dreams impossible to achieve, others say the ideas might be feasible but implementing them would be a challenge.
Rhodes University Dean of Humanities Professor Fred Hendricks, co-author of the book The Promise of Land: Undoing a Century of Dispossession in South Africa, said the question of land needed a new approach.
Some promises by the parties – for example the UDM’s pledge to encourage people to return to, or remain in, rural areas and start productive enterprises – were not feasible.
“Do they want people to remain squeezed into unproductive reserve areas? Or for more people to be squeezed into these areas?
“This is clearly not a solution.”
Hendricks said the DA would have to come to terms with the fact that the current constitution basically provided a legal sanction for colonial land theft.
“They’ve not begun to deal with these big issues of apartheid.”
Hendricks also said it was a pipe dream for the EFF to believe equal redistribution of all land among all could be achieved. “It does not begin to understand the complexities of the land question.”
Hendricks said the ANC had made many promises since Polokwane in 2007 to relook at the willing-buyer, willing-seller policy, “but they’ve done nothing of the sort. Many promises and no action.”
Education analyst Professor Susan van Rensburg said while it was nice to hear all the promises from the parties, the big question was to what extent could they deliver on the promises. “If a certain number of people have access to universities, then the political parties should ensure they provide the same number of jobs at the end of the years students will spend in university.”
She was happy that the parties were making plans to “fix” the broken system from Grade R.
“It is a fantastic idea but who is going to train those teachers? They are too optimistic, and they must not promise people everything all at once. The parties must instead give us long-term plans divided into phases, looking at a minimum of 15 years. To the uninformed, the promises sound like wonderful miracles but the truth of the matter is the education system is in dire straights and it is going to take more than free education or compulsory history to fix.”
Investment Solutions economist Chris Hart believes the parties are making promises for electioneering purposes.
“Political parties at election time can always wave their magic wand, so I think it is a case of ‘my magic wand can produce more magic than yours’. For me job creation is being able to smell the food but you cannot eat it, and a job is when you smell and eat the food. If you’re going to create six million jobs, you have to create about one million small businesses to achieve that. But how do you capitalise those small businesses?
“If you don’t have the capital, you cannot grow the economy. There are no measures in place at all from the political parties to say how they will increase companies’ revenue,” he said.
Hart did not support the youth wage subsidy and said many companies would close shop if Julius Malema’s EFF won the elections and delivered on his promises.
“It’s good to say we’ll pay people more, but where is the money coming from?” Hart asked.
Nelson Mandela Bay economist Neal Bruton said: “The promises being made would be more credible if the political parties combined them with the announcements of a strategy they believed would make their promises reachable.”
Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) policy head Marcus Low said the organisation was optimistic the parties’ promises could become a reality.
“It is good to see parties recognising the problem of medicines stock-outs at health facilities and in some cases providing concrete suggestions to deal with the problem. We are also encouraged by the support shown by some parties for the introduction of National Health Insurance.
“However, it remains to be seen how much of this comprises pre-election promises and how much is true commitment … It is not so much about the targets, but rather about the commitment to implement,” Low said.
“We need parties to commit to appointing only qualified and committed MECs for health.”