In the 100 or so days since the country set out on a path of renewal and rebuilding, South Africans have enthusiastically embraced the new dawn that we spoke of in the State of the Nation Address. They have taken upon themselves the responsibility to ensure that the new dawn brings real changes in the lives of the people.
This is a signal of renewed hope among South Africans that the country now has an opportunity to confront the challenges it faces and to make progress in building a more inclusive and prosperous society. Everywhere we go around the country, people say they want to be part of making change happen. It is a sentiment that is shared even by many of those we meet outside the country. The anecdotal evidence of this new mood is reinforced by the results of recent surveys. Research company Ipsos found that nearly two thirds of voters, or 63%, believe the country is going in the right direction. This is a significant improvement from a study in November 2017, where two-thirds of South Africans felt the country was going in the wrong direction.
This should give encouragement to the ANC, which, in outlining its tasks for the year in the January 8th Statement, said:
“The ANC will work with renewed determination to unite all South Africans – regardless of race, class or affiliation – around a shared vision of fundamental transformation. We need to restore the unity of purpose and sense of common destiny that was forged under the leadership of Nelson Mandela.”
We now have a valuable opportunity to build a powerful movement for social and economic change that draws on the energies and capabilities of a broad cross-section of South Africans. Most of our people accept that the future of the country requires a growing economy that is inclusive and a society that is more equal, and are prepared to be part of the effort to achieve it.
There has been some debate about the content of the ‘new dawn’, whether it is simply a slogan, or whether it has substance. The new dawn is real and tangible. It consists of clear priorities and tasks, many of which are outlined in the ANC’s January 8th Statement and elaborated in the State of the Nation Address.
A central priority in the new dawn is the creation of jobs on a significant scale, particularly for young people. This is really the only way to reduce poverty and inequality in a meaningful way. Among other things, this means that we need to grow our economy at a much faster rate and attract far greater levels of investment. For this, we need to be prepared to take extraordinary measures.
The Jobs Summit that is being held later in the year therefore needs to emerge with a social compact among all stakeholders on the contributions that each needs to make to ensure that the obstacles to job creation are removed. Preparations for the Jobs Summit are taking place alongside an ambitious investment drive that seeks to generate at least $100 billion in new investment over the next five years. This is far more than South Africa has managed to achieve in recent times and will take the country significantly closer to the 2030 targets of the National Development Plan.
Investment, from both domestic and foreign sources, is necessary to stimulate growth and create opportunities for new jobs. As the World Bank notes in a recent diagnostic report on South Africa: “Greater investment is needed to overcome exclusion.” As confirmation of the January 8th Statement, the same report notes, that for investment to increase, South Africa needs to improve investor confidence through, among other things, greater policy certainty, effective steps against corruption and crime and making it easier to do business.
Another important priority in the new dawn is decisive action against state capture and corruption. This has become a major concern for all South Africans. Not only does it deprive the state of resources that should go to improving the lives of the poor, but it also weakens public institutions and significantly erodes confidence among investors, business people and citizens more broadly. The economic effects of state capture have been dramatic, and it is therefore critical that it be stopped and those responsible held to account. The establishment of a commission of inquiry headed by Deputy Chief Justice Zondo has begun its work to investigate all allegations that have emerged of the private capture of public institutions. It expects to start public hearings in August. This is taking place alongside the work of law enforcement agencies and steps being taken by government to strengthen key institutions like SARS and clean up state owned enterprises.
Other constraints on investment include the unequal distribution of resources and low skills levels. These are the consequence of devastating apartheid policies, which the Constitution requires that we correct. Consistent with its historic mission, the ANC has prioritised the accelerated redistribution of land, both in rural and urban areas, to reduce inequality and poverty, increase agricultural production and realise the economic potential of this national asset. The ANC’s National Executive Committee recently adopted a far-reaching programme of action on land reform and agrarian revolution that will take this process forward.
Alongside ongoing work to improve the quality of our basic education outcomes and expand access to early childhood development, we have begun the phased introduction of fee free higher education for students from poor backgrounds entering their first year of study. This will significantly improve access to higher education for South Africans who would otherwise be denied the opportunity, expanding our country’s skills base and contributing to economic growth and development.
Over the next few editions of ANC Today, we will further discuss some of these priorities of the new dawn. They constitute an essential part of the shared vision of fundamental transformation around which we need to unite all South Africans. Working together over the last 100 days, we have made important progress along the path of renewal, but there is still much to do. By working together as all the people of South Africa, we can ensure that the hopes and expectations of the new dawn are realised.
President of the African National Congress