A Social Compact Is Essential

Prof. Deon Pretorius

The idea of a Social Compact is getting national attention since President Cyril Ramaphosa made mention of it in the State of the Nation Address. This comes as good news to people in the Sundays River Valley but the topic of a Social Compact for the SRV has been on the SRVC agenda for a while.

What is a Social Compact for the SRV? Simply stated, it is a voluntary agreement between different sectors of the SRVC about what is deemed to be important for all. This includes common goals, values, commitments and expectations, roles and responsibilities, principles, and rules to guide or regulate the relations among different sectors of the SRV community.

Why is it essential? The answer should be obvious. It not only provides the SRV with a means to deal with socio-economic exclusion, conflict, bridging divisions and working together but it is a system-survival imperative. The people of the SRV have no choice but to work together. Thus, three of the many reasons are:

Firstly, the “South African Problem” which is also the “SRV Problem” is a very big problem; it is the problem of severe socio-economic inequality as is evidenced by the vital statistics with regards to education, income, unemployment, health, and so on. These inequalities produce conditions for destructive conflict and if we do not find a solution it will eventually bring ruin to everyone in the Valley.

Secondly, the reality is that the Local Government does not have sufficient capacity to address all the issues that are of specific and common interest.
Thirdly, putting aside ideological and political views on the matter, it is not desirable for one agency (the state or any other) to be the sole agent of societal development even if the above was not the case.

The experience in the Sundays River Valley is already providing abundant evidence the best development process is a multi-sector co-responsibility process in which the state, civil society, business, and labour find a way (or be assisted) of overcoming their differences and to agree on a differentiation of roles and responsibilities to bring about national prosperity.

The way to structure such an agreement is through a Social Compact.

Who are the Parties to an SRV Social Compact? At least Local Government, perhaps the District Municipality, the Citrus Producers, Organised Business, Civil Society (in particular including the youth) and Organised.

What are the Common Goals? These must be worked out and agreed among the parties but addressing the problem of structural inequality and inclusive development must be part of the set of common goals. Hopefully, the focus can be made more specific and that all parties can agree on a plan of action.

What are the Common Values and Guiding Principles? Again, this is something that must emerge from engagement among the different sectors but there are certain basics that, given the realities of the situation, should be included. These are:

  • Recognition of Basic Equality of All People in the Valley
  • Recognition of the Human Rights of All People in the Valley
  • The Right to a Decent Quality of Life for All in the Valley
  • Non-Violent / Non-Destructive problem solving
  • Collaboration (or co-operation) wherever possible
  • Agreement on rules of engagement
  • Openness and transparency
  • A commitment to democracy
  • Anti-corruption

How will it work? Again, the parties must agree on this but it is likely to involve a platform for regular engagement among the different parties or their representatives and it should involve a co-owned short-medium and long-term collaborative development plan.

The key is that all parties must understand that they will all have expectations with regards to one-another, but they will, and should all benefit from committing to and acting in terms of a Social Compact, all parties must make commitments to add value and to pursue the common good.

The Sundays River Valley Collaborative is a non-profit organization aimed at achieving inclusive socio-economic development in the Sundays River Valley.


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