PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA
The National Executive Committee (NEC) elected at the ANC’s 53rd National Conference in Mangaung has just concluded its last January lekgotla ahead of the organization’s 54th National Conference to be held later this year.
The occasion has provided us with the opportunity to thoroughly study the resolutions taken at Mangaung and look at whether this current NEC has over the past year fulfilled the mandate that it was elected for.
We have done so mindful that our actions must re-assure our people that the ANC remains the only representative of all their hopes and aspirations for a better life.
This year’s ANC’s January 8 statement informed our discussions and work at the lekgotla. The statement covered a lot of issues and priorities that we want to focus on for this year as a movement.
Aside from reviewing our performance as the NEC over the past year, the lekgotla focused on translating the January 8 statement into a practical programme of action.
In reviewing performance in the past year, we bore in mind the outcome of last year’s municipal elections.
Our people sent a particular message to us during the local government elections; and we have accepted publicly that we made mistakes and that we will correct those mistakes in practice and in a visible manner.
Having discussed the election outcome extensively in the NEC we will now focus on solutions.
With approximately two years before the next national elections, how we perform and conduct ourselves as the ANC in the party and in government will to a large extent determine the results of those elections.
The ANC has a mission to fulfill, and that is to advance the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) and to transform this country.
The electoral outcome demonstrated that people want action in a number of areas and the January 8 statement has outlined these critical areas.
Primarily, the main issue is transforming and growing the economy.
Access to land, jobs, fighting crime and corruption and the access to basic services also remain critical.
Primarily, economic transformation has to happen, and this should not be just a slogan.
The ANC’s economic vision rests on the Freedom Charter’s call for the people to share in South Africa’s wealth.
The equitable society we intend to build, in which there is decent work for all, can only be achieved through accelerated transformation of the economy.
The ANC’s Mangaung conference reaffirmed that the National Democratic Society will have a mixed economy, with state, co-operative and other forms of social ownership and private capital.
In the January 8 statement, we say more decisive steps must and will be taken to promote greater economic inclusion and to advance ownership, control and real leadership of the economy by black people.
The ANC must use the levers of state power to transform the economy and promote job creation.
We must use government incentives, procurement, infrastructure investment and other measures to create new industries and expand existing industries, which would increase the ownership of the economy by the Black majority.
The ANC has to deracialize the economy – and in doing so we must move beyond sloganeering into action.
Our SMME and BBBEE policies should focus more on the development of entrepreneurs who play a meaningful role in the productive sectors of the economy- rather than shareholder transactions. We should also seek to build cooperative institutions and other forms of social ownership.
The lekgotla assisted us in outlining in practical terms what more we need to do to achieve this goal.
To advance transformation we must look at a number of sectors- such as the mining sector where ownership and control still needs to be transformed.
We have been speaking for instance about establishing a state owned mining company; and we should critically look at what is stopping us from achieving this goal.
Land ownership is also one of the key implementable aspects of economic transformation.
In the ANC January 8 statement, we noted that too many people continue to suffer because of the historic injustice of land dispossession. The ANC has affirmed the need to pursue land reform and land redistribution with greater speed and urgency.
An area of critical importance remains the building of the capacity of the state and State-Owned Entities (SOE’s) as well as the development finance institutions.
The reform and strengthening of SOEs is critical, as is the need for them to be used as instruments of economic transformation and development.
Another critical issue, forming part of our fight against poverty and inequality, is the question of the National Minimum Wage.
We moved a step forward last year when the task team led by the Deputy President agreed on an amount, namely three thousand five hundred rand. Ongoing discussions should enable finality on the matter.
Government and also the ANC must step up programmes to empower women to play their critical role in the development of our nation and in the economy.
We should also strengthen our programmes for the empowerment of the youth with skills and economic opportunities.
On social transformation, education, healthcare, the fight against social ills including crime and corruption remain key.
On the issue of healthcare, we must be able to report on what we have done practically towards the launch the National Health Insurance Fund. Because it is the envisioned NHI that will take us a step further towards better and more affordable health care for all.
We have to respond meaningfully on the stresses on the social fabric as evidenced by the many social skills such as drug abuse and the brutal abuse of women and children. The ANC and its government must visibly fight these scourges working with the people.
The fight against crime and corruption must be stepped up each year, with visible results.
On Basic Education, progress has been made in the past few years. The sector is attending to matters relating to school retention, to ensure that learners do not drop out. We also need to look into underperforming schools and ensure that there are consequences for principals and management at schools who consistently score zero matric pass rates.
In the Higher Education sector, our position is clear. No child should be denied an education because he or she comes from a poor household. We must continue funding those who are academically deserving but are from poor backgrounds.
Discussions are currently ongoing on the matter, to find solutions. The Heher Commission is also continuing with its work in this regard.
The global political environment is also more challenging as evidenced by shifts towards protectionism and extreme conservatism in developed economies.
The Middle East conflicts remain a challenge for the whole world, especially ongoing events in Palestine and Syria.
As a country and organization, we remain committed to finding peaceful solutions to these challenges. We condemn those elements bent on violent and undemocratic solutions.
Some political developments on our continent endanger the realization of Agenda 2063 of the African Union (AU).
Events in the Gambia are illustrative of the challenges around the constitutional transfer of power that continue to bedevil our continent.
We are confident that the intervention of the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) will resolve the problem and enable the democratically elected President to lead the people of Gambia.
Comrades are aware of the recent escalation of conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) owing to challenges around elections.
We also mourn the death of one of our fighters in the peace-making campaign, the young rifleman Moalusi Bushy Mokhothu.
South Africa played a critical role in the birth of South Sudan; regrettably the worsening civil conflict in that sister country prevents it from even starting the project of development; not to speak of the enormous human suffering.
We should as the ANC continue to assist South Sudan to find solutions.
Organizational renewal remains key for the survival and strengthening of the ANC.
The performance of the ANC as a party of government is intricately-linked to the health of the organization as an electoral party and as a national liberation movement.
This matter has exercised our minds as a party for a long time and should continue to do so.
It is a reality that disunity and internal conflicts do spill into the area of governance. But we should should not allow such conflicts to paralyze government. Let us deepen unity, in celebration of the life of Oliver Reginald Tambo.
2017 will be busy year for the ANC. Currently preparations are underway for the ANC’s National Policy Conference due to take place in June. Our deliberations at the lekgotla have laid the ground for a review of the implementation of our policies of the past five years, and assist the formulation of new policies.
The ANC is the leader of society; only the ANC is able to realize the aspirations of the National Democratic Society envisioned by our Constitution. Let us stay the course, demonstrate our capacity to manage internal tensions and conflicts –and retain our focus on our common goal. The lekgotla has seen productive discussions and seen us emerge united, and ready to run the next lap of the race.
CDE. JACOB ZUMA IS PRESIDENT OF THE ANC AND PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA.