Saturday, December 16, 2017

Jacob Zuma delivered his final official address as ANC president at the party's 54th national conference in Nasrec on Saturday.

President Jacob Zuma addresses delegates at the ANC's 54th national conference at Nasrec on 16 December 2017. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Jacob Zuma delivered his final official address as ANC president at the party's 54th national conference in Nasrec on Saturday.

He addressed a number of issues, including state capture & economic transformation. It's worth noting that he didn't really say what radical economic transformation really means.

This is what he did say:

The 54th National Conference is convened under the theme: "Remembering Tambo: Towards unity, renewal and radical socio-economic transformation.”

We are building on the instructive theme of the 53rd conference in Mangaung, which was unity in action towards radical socio-economic transformation.

Going to that conference, we had become alive to the fact that the country needed to get onto a higher development trajectory in order to move more speedily to the national democratic society envisaged by the Freedom Charter.

We recognised that the project of nation-building and social cohesion made possible by the democratic breakthrough of 1994 was coming under threat.

It was clear that we had to implement more radical measures to realize the injunction of the Freedom Charter that the People Shall Share in the Wealth of the Country or alternatively, we had to accept that it would forever remain a dream.

In a word, radical socio-economic transformation underpins the policy framework of the ANC in this current phase of our struggle.

The ANC NEC lekgotla in January produced a definition of radical economic transformation.

We said it meant the fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions, and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female, as defined by the governing party which makes policy for the democratic government.

Comrade Oliver Tambo had outlined this state of affairs decades before when he said: “We fight also for a South Africa whose wealth will be shared by its people equitably. We fight to abolish the system which obtains in our country today and which concentrates almost all productive wealth in the hands of a few, while the vast majority exists and toils to enlarge that wealth”.

We must be mindful of the fact that the primary beneficiaries of the current socio-economic status quo will by nature be opposed to any talk of radical economic transformation because it challenges and threatens the status quo and seeks to transform it fundamentally.

We have to act decisively, as doing nothing almost guarantees that there will be little progress in the resolution of the triple challenge of poverty, inequality, and unemployment. On the other hand, reckless action will plunge the country into deep economic and social distress.

We must tread carefully but act, because of the serious economic challenges facing our country currently.

The economy remains fragile. Economic growth of one point three percent is projected for 2017, reaching two point two percent by 2019, supported by global growth, stabilising commodity prices and a modest recovery in business and consumer confidence. Improved policy implementation, which must be a key focus area in this conference, will improve the employment and investment outcomes.

In the 52nd national conference in Polokwane, the ANC called for a mixed economy, where the state, private capital, cooperative and other forms of social ownership complement each other in an integrated way to eliminate poverty and foster shared economic growth.

Conference directed that the state must play a central and strategic role, by directly investing in underdeveloped areas and directing private sector investment.

The ANC government has indeed been directed to utilise to the maximum, the strategic levers that are available to the state to achieve transformation.

These include legislation, regulations, licensing, budget and procurement as well as Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Charters to influence the behaviour of the private sector and drive transformation. Conference will no doubt reflect on these and other instruments as we discuss the implementation.

The land question is a fundamental issue that the ANC needs to resolve and is a key factor in the transformation programme. This ultimate natural resource must be distributed in an equitable manner while enhancing its productivity and ensuring food security.

The ANC government has made considerable progress in the last five years especially in establishing a strong policy and legislative framework with regard to such matters as land tenure and the shift from “willing buyer willing seller” to “just and equitable.”

The Office of the Valuer-General has been set up, which has begun to change the manner in which the calculation of fair compensation is done. A new Bill has been developed to amend the Expropriation Act. Two land audits have been carried out to build a fact base planning purposes.

With regards to human settlements, we have to move with speed to roll back the legacy of apartheid spatial planning which condemns the majority of our people to be born and bred in areas determined for them by the racist Group Areas Act.

With regards to the ownership of the wealth beneath the soil, the Mining Charter was reviewed to determine progress in the achievement of the target of 26% ownership by black persons by 2014.

Some progress has been made but it is patchy. The Revised Mining Charter of 2017 takes this into consideration and among other things, raises the targeted black ownership to 30%.

The challenges facing the mining industry and the need to have policy certainty require action from us as the governing party. Conference should give direction on the matter in a manner that does not destabilise the industry further because of its strategic role in the economy as a whole.

We also need to protect jobs in a difficult economic environment in the mining sector. Our cadres in parliament should also ensure the finalisation of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act soon in the New Year to ensure policy finality in this sector.

Among the key obstacles to transformation are the high levels of concentration in the economy as well as the collusion or corporate corruption and cartels.

Comrades will know the deep and bitter legacy of economic collusion, which is equivalent to a form of corruption, from the days of apartheid, when companies meet secretly and decide on prices or divide markets among themselves. These cartels squeeze out small players and hamper the entry of young entrepreneurs and black industrialists.

Since the last National Conference, the Competition Commission has uncovered cartels in sectors as diverse as construction, steel, banking, automobile components, food markets, telecommunications and transport.

In the construction industry, more than 20 companies were exposed as being part of cartels that rigged their bids for the 2010 World Cup stadium and road projects. The Competition Commission has also investigated collusion by eighteen global and local banks, involving the foreign exchange markets.

Earlier this year, the Commission concluded its investigation into the banks and proceeded to the prosecution stage.

Market inquiries are currently taking place into the private healthcare industry and corporate practices in the grocery sector, including in shopping malls and townships, in the public transport sector and in the data-services sector.

As these are uncovered, serious concerns have been raised that corruption in the private sector is treated with kid gloves, and is referred to in softer terms such as “collusion”, “accounting irregularities” or “lapses in corporate governance”.

Theft and corruption in the private sector is as bad as that in government and must be dealt with decisively by law enforcement agencies.

Corporate collusion is now a criminal offence, punishable with 10 years in prison, in terms of a new provision signed last year.

Legislation and institutions have been put in place by the ANC government to eradicate corruption in the public sector.

Since 2009, the President of the Republic has signed 84 proclamations authorising the Special Investigating Unit to investigate maladministration and corruption in government and state institutions.

The allegations made against some sections of the business community regarding the said capture of the state to advance business interests will be probed further in a judicial commission of inquiry that we committed to establish as the ANC some time ago, in order to uncover the truth.

Let me emphasise that we need to find ways of protecting the ANC from corporate greed and ensure that the decisions we take are informed by the policies of the ANC and are not dictated to by business interests.

Already we have received threats that the ANC will implode and the economy will collapse if certain outcomes arise from this conference, be it conference resolutions on the economy or the leadership elected, if these are not those favoured by business.

The ANC has 105 years of experience of managing contestation, which is an internal democratic process.

We must build a resilient ANC that can withstand such undue pressure and enable the ANC to conduct its organisational work freely.

Meaningful progress has been made through the ANC’s affirmative action and broad-based black economic empowerment programmes and policies.

The ANC must attend to the issues affecting the black middle class such as racism in the workplace or business. Concern has been raised by many black professionals and businesspeople that stereotyping is being entrenched. Being black and successful is being made to be synonymous with being corrupt.

The ANC must promote black advancement and success and fight attempts aimed at frustrating and undermining black economic empowerment and affirmative action.

Access to finance for black entrepreneurs also continues to be a challenge. We need to reflect on this as we discuss the transformation of our development finance institutions.

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