Address by ANC President, Jacob Zuma to the Macquarie First South Luncheon Johannesburg Stock Exchange SANDTON 31 January 2008
Jayendra Naidoo, Chairman of Macquarie First South, Asset and fund managers and other professionals, Ladies and gentlemen, Let me begin by thanking Macquarie First South for providing this opportunity for us to interact today. We value such opportunities for direct contact, so that we develop an understanding and appreciation of each other’s views. Having recently concluded our national conference in Polokwane, and celebrated the 96th anniversary of the ANC through issuing our January 8 blueprint, we are now in the phase of putting in place the relevant structures and systems for effective implementation. There were a number of important decisions taken by the 4,000 delegates at the National Conference, setting the policy direction of the organisation for the next five years. The resolutions will guide the ANC in its programme in government, in the organisation, and in its engagement with broader society. The implementation will involve the collaboration of ANC members deployed in government and those serving the ANC. We have said repeatedly that we do not foresee any problems. Already the cooperation is visible, be it on the energy crisis, education, health or any other - we will work together. There is only one ANC, it does not matter who the members voted for in Polokwane. It was their democratic right to choose the leaders of their preference. But post-Polokwane there is one collective leadership – the 86 men and women chosen by delegates to guide the ANC for the next five years. The democratic South Africa is a remarkable nation. Sometimes, in the robust interaction of democratic politics or our preoccupation with an immediate crisis, South Africans forget that fact. We have made great strides as a people and we need to consolidate our gains, and build this great nation. We have only just begun the nation building process. Our democracy is just 13 years old, barely a teenager. Our journey thus far, as challenging as it may have seemed, is at infancy. To realise the great potential that we have as a nation we must find unity and a shared confidence in South Africa’s future. To that end, the ANC will ensure that all South Africans – regardless of race, gender or wealth -- are included in our nation-building projects and that every South African feels that they have a place in our society.
Ladies and gentlemen, when we in the ANC assert the claim: a better life for all South Africans, we are underlining what in the main our economic policy seeks to achieve – the eradication of poverty and underdevelopment. We are proud of the fact that together with our development partners and allies, the ANC government created conditions for the longest expansion of the South African economy in recorded history; the rate of growth averaging over 4.5% every year since 2004. The number of employed people has been increasing by about half a million each year. The creation of jobs and the massive expansion of social security to reach more than 12 million South Africans, has led to a significant reduction in the level of severe poverty and improvements in the quality of life for millions of our people. Improved macroeconomic conditions, reduced government debt and improved revenue collection has meant that greater resources are available for social and investment programmes, providing an opportunity, among other things, for a massive public sector infrastructure programme. In short, South Africa has progressed. There is a long way still to go, however. There are difficult challenges that must be overcome, and there will need to be an effective partnership in society to take further South Africa’s progress. I will highlight four critical challenges that South Africa must overcome: These are: Tackling the high levels of unemployment and poverty. Creating a competitive domestic economy. Defeating crime (particularly violent crime) and other social ills. Creating an effective and accountable government. Let me elaborate on these challenges. There is national consensus that the level of crime in South Africa is simply unacceptable. We are also generally in agreement as key roleplayers and citizens that we all have a responsibility to fight crime. The 52nd ANC National Conference resolved to sharpen our anti-crime campaign this year. This year the ANC will, build on the work already done to mobilise our communities to prevent and beat crime. The business community has demonstrated what a difference concrete action makes. The achievements of Business Against Crime, in its support for the criminal justice system are remarkable. There are many innovations that have been introduced in prisons and other criminal justice centres, through the work of Business Against Crime. We applaud such patriotic duty. We all need to provide support to the police in the execution of their duties. However, a law and order solution to violent crime will not be enough. We must therefore invest in social crime prevention.
Our proposed national youth development strategies and programmes are aimed at channelling our young people to more positive behaviour, to eliminate the lure of crime. Fundamental to sharing the benefits of growth must be the creation of decent work. We must decisively reduce unemployment, particularly among the youth. While the economy has created millions of new jobs since 2004, it is still not enough. Our unemployment rate, even if we exclude millions of those too discouraged to look for work, is 25%. Based on the current economic forecasts, we can expect to continue to create many jobs for our people, particularly for the more skilled. Thousands however, will remain unemployed, and this is the group we must focus on. The ANC Conference has confirmed that the creation of work opportunities must be the primary focus on our economic policies, including through targeted and direct interventions. Our development finance institutions and regulatory bodies need to be sensitive to this objective. In government procurement policies, industrial and trade policy reforms; and in our macroeconomic policy stance, we need to be alive to these goals. And there are many other fresh ideas to consider. For example, the State can assist young people to get their first formal sector job. By creating the right incentives for young people to be employed by companies, young people can gain vital workplace skills, experience and networks necessary for formal sector employment. Our direct interventions to address the high-levels of unemployment must, of course, be alongside measures to create a competitive domestic economy that can sustain a good rate of growth. This means ensuring that we have a competitive economy that can supply the output that we need. As we can all see today, the South African economy is growing faster than previously expected. Local firms are supplying less of the output that we need, and therefore imports are rising. We have to address this output gap in the economy and ensure that the private sector is investing more in increasing their productive capacities. Government infrastructure investment is now on the right track. This is to be welcomed as it is essential for sustainable growth. It is critical that this infrastructure is rolled out on schedule and that the industries making the investments (such as electricity, rail, water, and telecoms) are effectively regulated so that their tariffs are correctly priced and their service is of good quality. The recently announced industrial policy, aimed at ensuring local firms upgrade their capacities and investment, is also a step in the right direction.
All of these interventions by our government will bear fruit in the next decades. Now, of course, South Africans are all concerned about the supply of electricity. There is no doubt that electricity investment should have been made earlier than it was, and the reasons for this failure will have to be addressed at a later point. But the investments are being made now. Our government is developing a national response plan which will introduce short-term measures to balance the demand for energy with the supply, and this while the work to bring more supply is fast-tracked as much as possible. This is an electricity crisis, in the sense that a ‘crisis’ is a turning point. There will no doubt be a cost to the economy in the short-term. But let us make this a positive turning point for South Africa’s use of electricity in the longer-term. We have become accustomed to using electricity very inefficiently and in a manner that is environmentally damaging. In this regard, the ANC recognises that climate change is a new threat on a global scale that places an enormous burden on especially the poor. So perhaps this energy crisis is an ideal opportunity for South Africa, as an industrialised country with lots of creative capacity, to become a world leader in developing innovative solutions to energy management. It would certainly be an excellent outcome if South Africa emerged at the forefront of the world’s response to the global climate challenges. In creating a competitive domestic economy, there are three other areas I would like to emphasize today. The first of these, which our government is very mindful of, is the need to drastically improve our public transport system. The consequence of Apartheid planning is that people have to travel long distances to their place of work and spend a large share of their income on transport. Most of the unemployed cannot even afford to pay for transport to search for jobs. Therefore for the ANC an effective public transport system would be a path-breaking intervention. As South Africa moves into the 2010 World Cup government will roll out a public transport strategy, starting with the host cities. The second area needing special attention is our education system. South Africa cannot allow a situation to continue where our learners in maths and science are ranked far below other countries. The future of our service and knowledge-based industries needs a turnaround in education outcomes. The ANC Conference therefore resolved that education must be a core element of social transformation. Education must occupy the attention and energy of all our people. Our government will be working with educators, parents, school governing bodies and other stakeholders to make education the priority of all.
We undertook, in the January 8 statement, to promote the status of teachers and their remuneration, in response to our expectations that they would meet the non-negotiables we have put forward. These are that they must be in school, in class, on time, teaching, no abuse of learners and no neglect of duty. Another key area is skilled immigration. As South Africans we must come to terms with the fact that the more skills we have in the economy the more jobs we can create. While we do the hard work to improve our education and skills outcomes, which will take many years to accomplish, our government needs to ensure that the economy has sufficient skills to expand. How the ANC takes forward all of these things I have mentioned here today, as well as many other necessary initiatives, brings us to the fourth key challenge. This challenge is to create an effective and accountable State that makes effective implementation and service delivery its highest priority. A Developmental State is, above all, an effective implementer. This means getting the best skills into the public service and being accountable for the results. In fact, the ANC and its deployed cadres in government must be particularly accountable when the results fall short of the target! It also means introducing measures to improve the planning and organization of the public service, including effective performance management. The ANC has called for creation of an institutional centre for government-wide economic planning, and uniform and high entrance-requirements for the recruitment of public servants. The need for an effective planning centre within government is made even clearer by the electricity shortage, as this problem is clearly a failure of planning in the late 1990s. Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done going forward from Polokwane. We are up to the challenge, and will ensure that all our cadres in government and those serving the ANC deliver on the undertakings we are making. But of course we will also be relying on our Alliance Partners, Cosatu and SACP, as well as all sectors of our society as most of these objectives require multi-sectoral work for success. With regards to the Alliance, we will continue to work together as the ANC, SACP and Cosatu to transform all aspects of our country in order to eradicate poverty and improve the lives of our people. The contribution of the business sector is absolutely critical. That is why we continue to call for foreign direct investment, while also encouraging South African business to invest in the domestic economy. We know that we share with our business sector, the quest for sustainable economic growth and prosperity for all.
We can then work together to meet these objectives. The interactions such as the one we are having today are important as we are able to understand the challenges and opportunities that exist in each sphere. I thank you.