The ticking time-bomb that are Rural Areas

The Evolution of Work

By Dr Ivor Blumenthal

The ticking time-bomb that are rural areas.

When people have to move from rural areas to towns such as Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban that is a process referred to as Urbanisation. Even when Rural Training Programmes are implemented by government policy and SETA’s, in the rural areas themselves, the inevitable reality is that those programmes cause and result in urbanization and also general dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction because after the programmes are complete, things go back to how they were. Unemployment, poverty and a squalid way of life continues for the beneficiaries for those programmes.

Generally there are very few jobs or companies located in those areas capable of creating jobs. Urbanisation becomes the disease, causing overcrowding and job strain because those who have been trained, and who now have heightened expectations and a sense of entitlement, move to the cities in-search of jobs and better prospects leaving behind them destitute and split families, children and spouses. What compounds the problem in this country is that we are the destination country for those unemployed masses from other African countries streaming into our cities looking for the same things. Jobs and better prospects. The irony is that it is only Chinese and Cuban emigrants to South Africa who are content to move into the rural areas for their own vested reasons.

Why is it so difficult for our National Government to work out what is required to create strong, economically sustainable nodes in rural areas? Is the problem political? Is it because low levels of literacy, numeracy and economic involvement make for a captive and reliable voting pattern? Is it such a strategy which insures the retention of communities which are easier to manipulate? This compared to the discerning urban vote which is always going to be more challenging to satisfy? Unless our Government realises that the ticking time-bomb in SA lies in our neglected rural areas which are generally taken for granted and ignored the writing of the social temperature in this country, is on the wall.

I hate talking in simple terms but the solutions are not rocket science. They are clear and have always been clear. Educationally rural Providers have to become relevant, recognised and properly accredited by SAQA. Those that are not regularized and relevant need to be hounded out of business. Any Vocational Training and Development activity should by law need to be linked to actual and real job opportunities rather than is currently the case in these Rural areas, where thousands of people are trained on imaginary courses for jobs which simply do not exist.  Sheltered employment for otherwise unemployable teachers and lecturers needs to become a thing of the past in rural areas and weak and dangerous personnel need to be disposed of in favor of academic and teaching excellence.  Research and development funds need to be better vested in rural institutions. Companies need to be incentivised to commission research and labour channels from these Institutions. To do so research companies need to be encouraged to establish branches in these areas. It is ridiculous that when multi-national companies want to see if there is an appetite for a new brand, they would commission research houses in Johannesburg to do that research. Those those research houses would then put people on a train or plane and send them hundreds of kilometers into those rural areas to conduct that research. There is a capacity to create rural research houses and to contract those businesses directly, not necessarily through urban principles.

Fast-Speed Transport channels need to be quickly built between rural villages and towns and the closest cities, making it possible to live in the one and commute to the other on a daily basis, like it is done in the UK, in France and throughout Europe.

Policy needs to allow for the Industrial Development Zones (IDZ’s) to be more freely created in rural rather than urban ones.

The question is whether Government wants to do something about this problem or whether it has given up on the rural challenge? Certainly the majority of those who live in South Africa, live in rural areas. What makes an area a rural one versus an urban one is simply a matter of convenience and choice. Of lifestyle and of opportunities. It is a great pity that in this country we appear to have a strategy of lauding the established cities and looking down on the prospects of those towns and villages, which are far-reaching and outlying.  This thing needs to be turned on its head if we are to prevent social upheaval. From my own perspective, part of the problem is always that politicians and bureaucrats only travel beyond our established cities when they need votes, seeking the support of those they are supposed to be serving but do not. As a result people who live in these areas have become resistant and crass. They are suspicious of those who ride into their dusty towns once every four years with a myriad of promises, which soon get forgotten once the ballot boxes are put away. There is no accountability whatsoever in rural areas of politicians and MP’s who claim to represent those areas. What often emerges, as “Service Delivery” protests are in-fact outburst related to neglect and indifference for those who live and survive rurally despite government policy.

The ruralisation of the consumptive appetite and the ability to have the means to consume amongst the population of the rural areas of South Africa, needs to become a nationalized policy and demands a concerted legislative focus.

Dr Blumenthal is author of the book “50 Shades of Greed – The Services SETA, Warts & all.”