Why Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant’s “intellectuals” are so silent

By Alec Hogg

I wasn’t there, so don’t know whether erstwhile Cosatu bigwig and now Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant actually said what follows. But the SA Press Association is a reliable source. And it says Ms Oliphant prepared a speech for delivery to a Black Management Forum which read: “I have also observed… that our intellectuals are very thin in the public domain and they are completely outnumbered by the disciples of doom and gloom.”

Were the Labour Minister better connected with economic realities she’d realise why that was such a silly statement.

Among yesterday’s guests on CNBC Africa yesterday was Henk Potts, Global Strategist for the multinational Barclays Group. He pointed out that since 2009 the US’s unemployment rate has virtually halved from 10%. South Africa’s unemployment, by contrast, has risen to over 25%, the highest recorded for the longest time for any country on earth. Potts says the different paths are easy to explain – the difference lies squarely with labour flexibility of labour: “You have incredible flexibility within the US labour market, ability to hire and fire, and to innovate.”

Not so here. On the flexibility of labour, South Africa ranked 144th of 144 countries in the latest WEF Global Competitiveness Report. So while Americans hire, fire and adjust to economic realities, South Africa stagnates. With such overwhelming evidence, even the village idiot wouldn’t publicly support SA’s misguided labour legislation. Much less “our intellectuals”. That, Ms Oliphant, is why they are “very thin” in the public domain.

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