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The need for radical economic transformation has become topical in the recent past and the debates that preceded the recently-held ANC National Policy Conference and beyond has given impetus to the need to, as a nation, agree not only on how best we grow our country’s economy, but also how we ensure that all South Africans play an active role in the mainstream of our economy.

It is also urgent to find creative ways of how our people, especially those who have hitherto been excluded and kept on the economic periphery, are brought into the mainstream.

The current public discourse on radical economic transformation can only be useful if it steers away from being fixated on definitions, polemics and rhetoric. Rather it must focus on developing practical strategies and plans on how we change the lives of our people for the better.

Hence the ANC in Gauteng at its last conference has taken a view to drive and promote economic transformation that will change the ownership patterns of the commanding heights of our economy, whilst bringing especially black people into the mainstream of our economy.

Unsustainable

We are of the view that, indeed, our economy has not changed significantly, twenty three years after the breakthrough that ushered in freedom and democracy in our country. This unfortunate situation is unsustainable and needs to be attended to, especially given that the inequality gap is growing rather than closing.

Clearly, we are sitting on a ticking time bomb and unless we do something as a nation, it might explode and the consequences are too dire to contemplate.

A plan that tackles the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality has to be implemented without further delay if we are to turn the situation around.

The first step, therefore, is to all accept that economic transformation is essential as this will open new vistas for all people to play a meaningful role in our economy.

The most immediate task if we are to radically transform our economy is to provide consistent support to black entrepreneurs and industrialists. Gone are the days where a minority will be economically active whilst the majority are kept on the periphery.

Our country cannot also continue on a trajectory of being a net importer of goods whilst exporting raw materials. We, therefore, need to take practical steps to triple the levels of beneficiation of our mineral resources.

It is against this backdrop that the Gauteng Provincial Government adopted a ten-point plan that responds to our persistent challenges of poverty, joblessness and inequality.

This plan, called the transformation, reindustrialisation and modernisation (TMR) aims at, among others, changing the ownership patterns of the Gauteng economy, bringing the marginalised into the economic mainstream, providing support for small and emerging businesses, transforming the public service and radically changing Gauteng’s spatial landscape.

Capital investments

It is through the TMR that radical transformation would take place as our provincial economy will see massive capital investments in social and economic infrastructure like mega human settlements, transport infrastructure including the expansion of Gautrain and development of aerotropolis.

We will also provide better financial and other support to black businesses, including industrialists, to ensure that Gauteng re-establishes its manufacturing capacity. Our funding agencies are being restructured to ensure that they are more responsive to black businesses’ needs as finance is one of the major impediments to business growth, especially for black entrepreneurs and industrialists.

Our township economy is also getting a shot in the arm as businesses in those areas are being supported and the government is procuring more and more goods and services from township-based enterprises.

We are also cutting red tape as ease of doing business is an incentive to investors and in this regard the provincial government has begun to interact with municipalities in Gauteng to improve their applications’ turn-around times.

I believe that radical economic transformation should be defined by how it changes our country’s economic landscape to ensure that those who have been historically excluded are brought into the mainstream, as this will go a long way in redressing the economic wrongs of the past.

The conversation must talk to how we should transform the commanding heights of our economy as studies indicate that black South Africans hold at least 23percent (38percent if international holding is excluded) of Top 100 companies listed on the JSE and this is mostly through their retirement savings.

It is also disconcerting that the leadership complexion of these companies do not reflect the demographics of our country and it is essential that this ugly picture changes.

These are some of the key areas that need urgent attention. Otherwise the push for transformation will become a mirage.

Paul Mashatile is the chairperson of ANC Gauteng.