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Nelson Mandela, PresidentIn the short term, it is politically functional to create low value mass employment job opportunities on community-based menial work projects. This is not a functional poverty elimination approach in the long term, though. It is simply a way of managing poverty, as well as buying time to contain the potential outward expression of anger and frustration by the poor as long as possible. Service delivery protests currently ravaging certain parts of South Africa may be a sign of things to come, though, when this kind of poverty management is exhausted, and no better alternatives are in the offing.

Society will in the long term gain by far from investing in high value job creation opportunities across the board. The seemingly relatively fewer thriving in high value jobs as entrepreneurs, innovators, and experts in various technological, as well as societal management skills not only drive the economy through higher purchasing power arising from higher available disposable income, they in turn create job opportunities of a higher value than community based low value mass employment ones. And, they pay tax. For example, I’ll postulate that, all things remaining equal, and assuming rational behaviour, as well as economic expenditure and saving patterns in a dynamic economy, R.30 000,-/ month paid to one junior-middle level professional creates more real social economic value than the same amount paid to sixty low value mass employment workers receiving R.500,-/ month each. The thought that there are working people still taking home a net of R.500,-/ month in South Africa in 2014 boggles my mind.

“Forget it, man, you can’t have R.400,-/ hour in South Africa for reflexology, massage, or whatever it is you do. It just can’t work. Not in South Africa. No ways. You cannot make half a million rand per annum with this. Impossible. How many feet is that you’ll have to massage? Well, if you say you’ve done this before wherever you say you come from, you’ll have to show me your annual business accounts statements audited by KPMG or somebody, to convince me” said one of the judges at an entrepreneurship competition a few months ago; crushing my business concept to pulp, thrashing my ego to pieces.

He continued, “And what’s this about philanthropy? It’s only very wealthy people who do philanthropy. They do this only for tax rebates reasons. That’s it. You, you can never be any wealthy at any rate. So, forget philanthropy in your business fantasies” My Good Samaritan heart bubble got punctured big time. I wondered as to the extent of Mother Theresa’s personal wealth in her lifetime. Poor Lady. Time to call Melinda Gates.

Another judge went on, “You would have to do some real hard convincing to get me to pay that kind of money for a massage. And, I am not poor, you know. People like you come to us with fancy words like philanthropy and charity, and think we’ll be impressed. Well, I’m not!” My entrepreneurial visions in South Africa went crashing against a brick wall. Head on. I’m shattered.

Given my age, my level of academic and professional training, as well as skills, including my vast international work and life experience over a 40 year period abroad, R.400,-/ hour is the absolute minimum I can allow myself to work for professionally in South Africa. Short of that, I’d rather drive a truck, or, Goodbye, Mzanzi fo sho. I have not come back home to be poor. When in my own way I fought for the liberation of South Africa, it was not only so I could drink tea and wine with White, green, pink, yellow, and maroon people freely. It was, most importantly, so that I could also enjoy fully the wealth and fruit of my land through being rewarded fairly for my labours as I work to contribute, in my own way, to the growth and development of my country. My academic and professional educations are of high value. It goes without saying, therefore, that my jobs and businesses will be high value based. I make people healthy and strong, so that they can be more effective and productive in all aspects of their lives. The people I teach my knowledge and skills to become high value workers and entrepreneurs in their own rights. They must be paid, and earn accordingly.

High value jobs inspire. All things remaining equal, high value jobs motivate people to want to grow to be the best person they can be, both professionally and socially. High value jobs people inspire and stimulate growth and development. High value jobs people are role models for the young and the youth. They ignite ambition, drive, passion, and the desire to succeed and achieve. More often than not, high value jobs people are also generous, kind, and empathic. They have varying degrees of social engagements and interests, helping the needy and less fortunate in society: Philanthropy. High value jobs make more social economics sense, therefore.

Ultimately, where does it lead, what does it give, say, a thousand adults who are on a low value work skills training programme, sweeping township streets all year round? The R.500,-/ month net they take home being paid out 2-3 months late in many cases? These people just ever wriggle deeper and deeper into poverty in the long term, becoming permanent slaves to township micro financing loan sharks, among many other ills. The circle of poverty is complete. Flamboyant, rebellious, and defiant young politicians form political parties purporting to champion the plight of the poor. Having nothing to lose, the poor fall for the populistic rhetoric, and join the parties. The ring of poverty is closed. The orgy of destruction begins. Vandalism becomes order of the day. Anarchy reigns. And the poor don’t understand why they remain poor all their lives. Enter NGOs. The poor’s begging bowls grow larger from year to year. Poverty sinks the beggars deeper and deeper down pits of misery and dejection. So very exotic this is. Poverty is big business for some. Dangerous.

Fortunately, I am in a position where I can set value on my knowledge and skills without the risk of getting shot down because I don’t need to go out, armed with a stick, and toyi-toyi against global capitalist exploiters and the system, with combat-armed police there to ensure law, order and peace prevail. High value jobs allow for greater degrees of individual freedom to choose where and how to work, and for whom. High value jobs contribute to peace and stability in society, therefore. High value jobs come with high value oriented systems of education. I am not so very sure if a 30% Matric pass certificate in South Africa, without mathematics in some cases, helps anybody in kindling high value jobs aspirations, though.

Simon Chilembo
South Africa
Tel.: +27 717 454 115
August 18, 2014


1 Comment

  1. […] and hope were said. Many were touched by the fact that I voluntarily imparted such high value knowledge and skills to Elizabeth for free, despite the fact that it, towards the end, had become general knowledge that […]

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