South Africa

No fuss, no fizz, no fire: Zuma’s Mangaung political report

By Sipho Hlongwane 16 December 2012

ANC president Jacob Zuma delivered his political report to the ANC national conference on Sunday, where he sought to dispel criticisms of his leadership, and offered a detailed exposition on what he thinks the party needs to do to grow the South African economy. By SIPHO HLONGWANE/NewsFire.

The African National Congress has not failed to lead South Africa, ANC president Jacob Zuma said at the party’s national conference on Sunday. In his political report, he sought to dispel criticism of the ruling party’s ability to lead the country and grow the economy. Blaming the slowdown of the economy on the global recession, he said that recent downgrades of the country by credit rating agencies were misguided.

“We want to dismiss the perceptions that our country is falling apart because of the downgrades. We continue to do our development work, we continue to plan for a recovery,” he said.

“Today, the ratings agencies and investors are asking whether the ANC can continue to manage this economy so that we can grow, create jobs, manage our debt and provide policy certainty. Yes, the ANC will continue to provide strong economic leadership and steer our economy boldly, and we do have a plan to grow the economy and create jobs.”

The National Development Plan (NDP) that was released by the National Planning Commission is how the ANC government will lead the country, according to Zuma. He described it as a big achievement for his administration.

“The destination we are heading towards is 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,” Zuma said.

He encouraged the ANC delegates to adopt the plan, even if it was drafted “by South Africans”, because it was a plan for the whole country and not just the party.

The plan was drawn up by an independent panel of experts after broad public consultation. Shortly after it was released, the ANC alliance partner Cosatu rejected it for proposing a loosening of labour laws.

At the ANC’s policy conference in June, the plan received a lukewarm response and was hardly discussed. The party instead focused on its own second transition document.

The NDP has now received a ringing endorsement from the ANC president, who asked delegates to grasp it with both hands.

“Having a long-term plan creates certainty about where we are going,” Zuma said.

The ANC government is responsive to problems and is doing something about them, he continued.

“We have diagnosed problems with education and are now remedying it,” he said.

South Africa is one of the most transparent countries in the world when it comes to fighting against corruption, according to Zuma, and there is a unified effort by all to build a corruption-free country.

“Government has established institutions that probe corruption including the Special Investigating Unit, and units within the SA Police Service, Treasury and other departments. We urge the public to continue assisting these units with information so that we can stop corruption in its tracks. One area of vulnerability in government is the tender system. Conference may wish to deliberate on tendering which is often open to abuse currently,” the president said.

The government has faced strong criticism for failing to deliver textbooks to some categories of school pupils in Limpopo, and also for the state of school buildings in the same province and the Eastern Cape. Section27, a non-government organisation, successfully sued the department of education for failing to discharge its constitutional duties.

The president blasted what he called “alien tendencies” that had crept into the party, like smear campaigns and negative lobbying for positions in the party. In a veiled reference to former ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema and his suspended allies, he said that disrespectful public spats as well as hurling insults at other comrades or members of the public were becoming common.

Zuma said: “More seriously, we have experienced the shocking occurrences where armed comrades disrupt ANC meetings. This then raises the question what exactly could be so much at stake, that people would go so far to get their own way in the organisation.”

“We condemn the use of violence, and strongly condemn the killings of ANC leaders including the ANC Dr Kenneth Kaunda regional secretary in North West, Comrade Obuti Chika. We condemn the killing of other comrades in other provinces as well, earlier in the year.”

He continued to say that the Marikana tragedy is a sign that the tripartite alliance may be misreading the so-called balance of forces. The ANC, Cosatu and South African Communist Party often say that they have a bias to the poor and working class, and always strive not to give up the discursive space to the so-called capitalists. In that context, Zuma could have been saying that the labour unrest was due to capitalists getting too much of their own way.

“We once again extend our deepest condolences to the families of all who died in Marikana,” Zuma said.

Unlike previous meetings, Zuma did not sing his trademark ‘Mshini Wami’ song, opting rather for a neutral song that praised President Nelson Mandela and reminded delegates that the national democratic revolution was not over yet.

In a sign of the waning influence of the Malema-era ANCYL, the nationalisation debate got no mention in the president’s speech. It was remarkable for what it left out in that respect. The speech appeared to be aimed at calming investors about his party’s handle on the economy and the country above all else. DM

Photo: Greg Nicolson/NewsFire


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