The ANC needs to act decisively to advance radical economic transformation, President Jacob Zuma said during his Political Report to the 54th National Conference. He said that 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, he said, reckless action would plunge the country into deep economic and social distress.
In presenting his report, he paid tribute to Isithwalandwe Oliver Reginald Tambo, saying that delegates should be inspired by the vision, character, wisdom and clarity of Tambo during conference deliberations.
Below are some highlights from the report:
Radical socio-economic transformation underpins the policy framework of the ANC in this current phase of our struggle. This means 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.
The state must play a central and strategic role in the economy by directly investing in underdeveloped areas and directing private sector investment. The ANC government has 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.
The land question is a fundamental issue. 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.”
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.
The challenges facing the mining industry and the need to have policy certainty require action from 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.
Competitiveness and collusion
Among the key obstacles to transformation are the high levels of concentration in the economy and the collusion or corporate corruption and cartels. The Competition Commission has uncovered cartels in sectors as diverse as construction, steel, banking, automobile components, food markets, telecommunications and transport. 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.
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.
Black economic empowerment
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.