Transforming and growing SA’s economy requires effective implementation of the Constitution, panel told
Effective implementation of the Constitution is necessary to achieve transformation and growth, concluded a panel discussion focused on transforming and growing the SA economy as a constitutional imperative.
‘There is a consensus that there is indeed an imperative drawn from the Constitution itself that we need to not only grow this economy but to transform it substantively,” said Khaya Sithole, the facilitator of a panel discussion about transforming and growing SA’s economy as a constitutional imperative. The panel discussion was part of the three-day National Conference on the Constitution in Midrand, Gauteng.
A pipe dream?
If the economy could grow by 5% per annum in the next 12 years, South Africa could double the size of its economy, halve the unemployment rate and get a Gini coefficient of 2.49, which is more reasonable for a middle-income country like South Africa, said Roger Baxter, the CEO of the Minerals Council South Africa.
“A lot of people will say to us that 5% growth is just a pipe dream, I disagree. I think 5% growth is very achievable,” he said.
However, at present, it would be difficult to achieve this growth.
“We have at the moment the body of our economy, which is Eskom, in the intensive care unit. The vascular system is the logistics, and we don’t really have a vascular system that’s pumping oxygenated blood,” he explained.
A potential solution to this would be opening up to greater private sector participation and investment.
“We’ve got the people, we’ve got the capability; the thing that’s stopping us is our own views of what we should do from a mixed economy perspective versus a much more liberalised economy.”
Red tape also contributes to issues. “We have an agreement with the government that has shortened the timeline from 18 months to 53 days now in terms of solar projects because of the electricity crisis that we’re in.”
Baxter said this was an example of how partnerships in the private sector and public sector could unlock a much higher growth rate.
‘Youth unemployment crisis’
“The big issue is that we’ve got 10 million people unemployed; the youth unemployment crisis that we face is so huge,” said Baxter.
A significant portion of young people who were unemployed would never find a long-term job, he said. One of the best ways to fight poverty was to get people into productive employment.
“In my view, if we’re growing the economy at a much faster pace, that should probably generate over the next 12-year period something like five million extra jobs.”
Finding the light
Siyabulela Jentile, the president of Not in My Name SA, urged captains of industries and the government to help ordinary South Africans through these tough times.
“I am diametrically opposed to the over-intellectualisation of issues that need the participation of ordinary South Africans.”
He echoed the sentiments of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela that there was no self-executing Constitution.
“I do believe that the problem lies in execution, or rather implementation at different sectors,” he said. Key role players in the economic sector, such as the minerals industry, had adequate transformation and growth policies, but the issue lay with the implementation of these policies, he said.
Gender equality is a necessity
“We need gender equality, whether it be in the corporate or whatever sector,” said Jentile. In many industries, women are still paid less than their male counterparts, regardless of experience, age and educational qualifications, he said.
“As part of us holding this Constitution to account for economic growth and transformation, we need to develop our female counterparts. We must pay them what is due and we need to advocate in all spaces that we’re in for gender equality.”
The Stellenbosch University way
Madonsela spoke about the need for restitution. She said that the main administration building at Stellenbosch University was named after Krotoa, a Khoi woman who became instrumental in negotiations during the first Dutch-Khoikhoi war because of her linguistic abilities.
“We have a Krotoa building because we have a restitution statement where Stellenbosch University acknowledges the injustices of the past and the role it played in those injustices. It [the university] apologises to those who were hurt by those injustices.”
Madonsela asked the Chamber of Mines to apologise for its role in manufacturing inequality. DM/MC