HIGH wage demands combined with a poor education system were creating a new form of slavery in SA, Richemont chairman Johann Rupert said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the annual FW de Klerk Foundation conference, Mr Rupert lambasted unions for holding the country hostage, saying they had no interest in creating jobs.
"They hold the country to ransom with their demands (for higher wages), which are not sustainable. It is not in the interests of the unions to create jobs, but to preserve them for a few," he sad.
Mr Rupert said education was SA’s single greatest failure since 1994. "We are producing people who are not educated, and that means they won’t progress later in life, and that means a new form of slavery. Government has to decide if it wants Sadtu (the South African Democratic Teachers Union) to run the country or if they (the government) want to educate the children."
He suggested greater use of electronic systems to educate children, especially in rural and disadvantaged areas. "The fact is that teachers do not go to bad areas."
Mr Rupert, who owns wine farms, rejected as unworkable the recent proposal by the African National Congress (ANC) that land ownership be capped at 12,000ha as part of its land reform policy. "The fact of the matter is that 12,000ha in the Karoo means nothing, while that could be a useful production unit in Mpumalanga. The one-size-fits-all cap does not work."
He described Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana as the "minister of food security". He said: "Government has to realise that food for the entire country is produced by relatively few farmers. It is a matter of productivity and investment that they are able to keep their farms producing the food that is necessary."
There was a trend among some farmers to invest in the cheapest equipment due to the uncertainty caused by ANC and government pronouncements on land reform.
"This will have an impact as it lowers the farmers’ investment and therefore their productivity."
Mr Rupert said "communist" farming methods such as collective farms and government-run farms had failed as no one on those farms took responsibility for making them work. "On a collective farm, if a cow is sick, then it is the government’s problem. A private farmer will get up in the middle of the night to tend to that sick cow."
The conference marked the 25th anniversary of former president FW de Klerk’s landmark speech that announced the release from prison of Nelson Mandela, the unbanning of the ANC and other liberation movements, and set SA on course for its current political dispensation.
Mr de Klerk told the conference: "SA is headed for a rough five years, but it should get better if we stick to the rule of law and the principles and values of the constitution."
He lashed out at the South African Communist Party over its undue influence over the ANC, saying it was leading SA on a path of socialism that had been proven to be unworkable in the rest of the world. "Manifestations of this ‘advance towards socialism’ are reflected in the cancellation of bilateral investment treaties with European countries and the introduction last year of several pieces of legislation that seriously threaten property rights."
Former president Kgalema Motlanthe, the first senior ANC leader to speak at the conference in its eight-year history, bemoaned the rise of corruption and racism. He said that the rule of law and the dictates of the constitution had to be followed.
He said open racial attacks could not be tolerated. "In a constitutional democracy, the boundaries for clear, open and robust speech are open to discretion, but (they) do not accommodate racial incitement to violence. This serves as a barometer to our social cohesion."