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RET: Changing the economic landscape


Vuso Shabalala is a Special Adviser to President Jacob Zuma.

Over the last 23 years, the ANC has sought to manage the affairs of state in the most responsible manner. We have made significant progress. Our nation is however capable of accelerating the pace and deepening the scope of change and collectively mitigating the risks that arise.

South Africans across the political spectrum have been talking about what the ANC means by radical economic transformation.

The ANC resolved at its last conference in Mangaung, Bloemfontein that we had entered a decisive second phase of our long transition from Colonialism of a Special Type to a National Democratic Society. The ANC chose as a theme, Unity in Action towards Socio-Economic Freedom, which demonstrated readiness for the task of radically transforming our society.

The organisation agreed that the second phase in our transition from apartheid colonialism to a National Democratic Society would be characterised by more radical policies and decisive action to effect socio-economic and continued democratic transformation. The 8 January statement of 2017 outlined what we believe should be done to action this undertaking further.

The economy of South Africa today is part of an indivisible global economy. Economic integration has a positive element to the peoples of the world. However the manner in which the world economy developed means that some areas carry most of the disadvantages.

The idea of radical socio-economic transformation has as its background the current economic landscape that has endured little changed over a century, at least since the Union of South Africa was established in 1910.

We find social and economic inequalities in societies the world over.

The difference in South Africa and many post-colonial societies is that the inequalities originate from the systematic suppression of the normal development of the black people. In South Africa this was consolidated, institutionalised and legislated under the apartheid regime.

The economic system grew on the base of extraction of minerals and export mostly to Europe. It was founded on the cheap labour of the indigenous peoples of the region drawn from what were called reserves designed deliberately so that those areas could not sustain themselves economically. The people of Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and others were drawn into these jobs because of the challenges in their areas.

Most of the land and virtually all the good land was taken away for the exclusive use of the white settlers. The limited industrial capacity was primarily to service the extraction of minerals and their export. Agricultural output was also primarily for the white community and the export market.

Radical socio-economic transformation is not about reversing the clock of history. It is about finding the best solution for the present and future. Radical socio-economic transformation is also not about cutting South Africa off from the rest of the world. It is about finding a balance in the global economy to benefit all.

We appreciate that the very history of racial divisions underlies the continuing fears of the section of society that has benefited from the underdevelopment of the other.

The best prize would be for all of us to collectively develop solutions for the future.

There are mutual and entrenched suspicions among the social partners, business, labour and government. However, from a rational position, all should appreciate the medium and long-term benefits of building a common future today. The acceleration of diversification from a largely extractive economy riding on export of commodities assures a better future for all.

Expanding the base of value-added exports is the only sensible way to build a competitive economy minimising the commodity price fluctuation. The real conversation should be about a quicker pace along a jointly designed solution to the desired state.

We believe there is a lot of scope for redistributing the land in a manner that raises the quality of life and productivity of all citizens. Relying on the export market for agricultural goods stunts the growth of the economy as it excludes the majority of the population.

The natural economic partners for our country are other countries on the continent. A strategy that incorporates regional economic integration beyond simply a relationship of market and investment destination can only be to the best interest of all the people of the continent.

Our government is playing an active role in strategies for economic integration in the Southern African Customs Union, Southern African Development Community, and Free Trade Agreement of SADC, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa as well as the East African Community also known as the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement.

South Africa also plays an active role in the New Partnership for African Development. President Jacob Zuma chairs the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative, and leads the North South Corridor road and rail projects on which much progress has been made.

We need to end the trench warfare in which each side highlights disadvantages of the solution presented by the other party rather than jointly developing the best solution for all.

We conceived of the National Development Plan 2030 as such a solution. We therefore established the National Planning Commission of experts in various fields regardless of political affiliation. Government has translated the NDP into the Medium-Term Strategic Framework which covers five years.

The governing party has directed its functionaries to use the levers available to the state with a greater sense of urgency legitimately to realise the goal of radical socio-economic transformation.

Over the last 23 years, the party has sought to manage the affairs of state in the most responsible manner. We have made significant progress.

Our nation is however capable of accelerating the pace and deepening the scope of change and collectively mitigating the risks that arise. We are as a nation capable of realising radical socio-economic transformation for the future of our children and future generations. DM

Vuso Shabalala is a Special Adviser to President Jacob Zuma


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