A few days ago, we received back the remains of JB Marks and Moses Kotane, the two doyens of our struggle for liberation who perished in foreign lands. They are but two of many freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives so that we may enjoy the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution.
They fought so that black and white, urban and rural folks, men and women can choose a government of their choice. While the project of repatriation of these two heroes has been in gestation for some time, it is only now, during President Zuma’s tenure that the families are finding closure. Many more will be repatriated, but lessons learnt from this particular repatriation, will serve us in good stead into the future.
In 2014, more than 62% of South Africans made their democratic choice to choose a political party of their choice. At the head of that political party, the African National Congress, was and still is President Jacob Zuma. Having been elected for another period of five years ending in 2019, we are still on track. Early this week, a party that only succeeded to win less than half a percent of the votes sought to question and change this fact through tabling a motion of no confidence in the National Assembly . If more than eleven million South Africans are wrong, and 52,000 are correct, then the mathematics of those who had proposed the motion do not add up. If in less than a year some in Parliament believe that eleven million people made the wrong choice, then they have scant respect for the rational decisions that our people make.
We share the disappointment of many in Parliament and South Africa that this motion was withdrawn, as we believe it was a missed opportunity which we would have welcomed to affirm the remarkable work of this government under the leadership of President Jacob Zuma. Although the ruling party constantly reminds itself of the need to be magnanimous in its victory by accepting the voices of other political parties, it cannot be so irresponsible as to allow diversionary tactics to dissuade it from its historic mission to lead the social and economic transformation of our beloved country. To do so would encourage the hegemony of the minorities, which is not what the Freedom Charter seeks to achieve.
Economic history tells us that growth and development do not follow a linear process. Economies go through ups and downs; through good times and bad times. This process has repeated itself over many decades, with no fail; except with the world economy being more globalised than during previous recessions, the effects have been more devastating, affecting many more countries and lasting for longer.
Not so long ago, our country, together with the rest of world, experienced an economic downturn not seen in many decades. Different countries experienced the impact of the economic crisis differently. Millions of people lost their jobs, their houses were repossessed, retirement savings were wiped off, and the rate of suicide increased astronomically as people watched everything they had worked for disappear before their eyes.
The International Labour Organisation estimated that the number of unemployed people across the globe increased by 34 million in 2008 compared to 2007. The rest of the world is only emerging from the devastating effects of this crisis and indications are that it will take well over a decade to return to pre-crisis levels of growth. There is no denying that the economy is in bad shape. However, to blame this on President Zuma is disingenuous. The economies of the Eurozone are still going through a protracted period of economic slowdown, with some of them being in a worse position than South Africa.
When the fastest growing economy in the world, such as China’s, takes a knock, it does not need rocket science to deduce that the rest of the global economy will be affected. In Napoleonic times, the adage that when France sneezed the rest of Europe caught the cold prevailed. Some in this house are disingenuously oblivious to the current truth that the contraction of the Chinese economy has a domino effect on the whole global economy. This may be an inconvenient truth but it is still the truth.
Brazil contracted by -0.3% in 2009 and bounced back to 7.5% in 2010, only to slow down to 1% in 2012. Greece, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Puerto Rico, Croatia, Ireland, Netherlands, Slovenia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, are some of the countries that are battling to recover from this crisis. Many of these economies have experienced negative growth for two years or more over the past four years.
In spite of the challenges facing our economy, much has been achieved since the dawn of our democracy.
Under President Zuma, the National Development Plan has not only been drafted and consulted upon, but has been supported by the majority of South Africans. It is a plan that has inspired confidence in the economic, social, environmental and political direction that we as a country have charted for ourselves. Vision 2030 was also introduced to give effect to the National Development Plan.
At this present moment, some of these objectives of Vision 2030 are being implemented. Amongst these is the unlocking of the vast potential of our Blue economy – a game changer in our economic trajectory going into the future. Excellent outcomes are expected from the Operation Phakisa of the Health Sector. We look forward to even better co-ordination in the Mining Sector which is next in line with the Phakisa driven collective solution to common problems.
South Africa weathered the 2008 Financial and Economic Crisis much better than many other modern economies. Our financial systems performed as credibly as Canada’s and Australia’s.
Whilst jobs were lost subsequently, in 2014 South Africa has actually managed to employ even more people than were employed in the years when jobs were lost, implying that there is recovery.
Job tenure across all skill levels has increased over the period: 2008 to 2014 by between 7% for unskilled workers and 12% for the semi-skilled and skilled workers. This implies that those who are in employment have their duration increased thus stabilising their incomes better than they did in 2008.
By the fourth quarter of 2014, GDP showed signs of recovery at a 4.1%. What is important, though, is that the real sectors of the economy, namely agriculture, mining, and manufacturing, were positive and actually grew.
Despite these unfavourable circumstances, the government led by President Zuma has done a good job of stabilising the economy and investing in infrastructure to propel the economy into the next phase of growth, while investing in improving the quality of life of the most vulnerable.
It is clear that those who sought to move this motion of no confidence against the president had no hope that it could be carried. Indeed, they would have a better chance of winning the Lotto than the futile attempt to pass such a baseless motion. This is not a political stunt; this is no fiction; this is reality. DM
Jeff Radebe is the ANC’s Head of Policy and Minister in the Presidency: Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation. This feature was first published in ANC Today.
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