The focus of the ANC’s election manifesto on fast-tracking job creation to be achieved mainly through state intervention in the economy, including the proposed introduction of a national minimum wage, has been viewed as “pie in the sky” by South Africa’s two main opposition parties.
The manifesto was released at the weekend by the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) in Mbombela.
President Jacob Zuma, the ANC president, gave his governing party top marks for its performance.
“The last five years has been a period of unprecedented [economic] growth and development in this country,” he said. “Our national wealth has grown to a gross domestic product of more than R3.5 trillion and [the] government’s annual revenue has grown to R880 billion.”
The governing party, which is focusing its upcoming national election campaign on the economy and jobs – it promised to deliver 6 million jobs through state programmes in the next 10 years – came under fire from Cope and the DA for promises it could not, they believe, keep.
Zuma and the NEC acknowledged that poverty and unemployment, particularly among the youth, were the key challenges facing South Africa.
Nick Koornhof, the Cope finance spokesman, said building an environment to create new jobs was about instilling business confidence and not just issuing promises about job creation.
“South Africa is lacking in that department compared with our neighbours in Africa and other emerging markets,” he said
He said investors, particularly from outside, went where they could garner high returns. They were simply not achieving high returns in South Africa.
“Investors are insecure about our commitment to policies and sticking to them. They don’t know whether the policy will be the same in the next two or five years.”
When faced with investment options, business people would rather go with a bad policy “and know that is the policy that will stick”.
There was a lack of team-work in terms of rolling out policies, he said. “Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan says one thing… provincial premiers say quite another thing.”
Koornhof also questioned the pledge to roll out the National Health Insurance in the next term. “It is simply unaffordable. I cannot see how, if it were unaffordable last year, it would become affordable in the next five years.”
Wilmot James, the DA trade and industry spokesman, said the ANC’s job promises were empty. “The ANC says it will build an inclusive economy that creates jobs. The party’s economic policy has, however, failed to establish an environment in which businesses can grow and jobs can be created.”
With unemployment entrenched at 25 percent – the narrow, conservative definition – it was concerning that 2.2 million workers had given up looking for work, James said.
The only relatively new proposal in the manifesto was the commitment to investigate the introduction of a national minimum wage.
“Further labour market rigidity will not result in more jobs being created and is likely to provide further protection for the employed at the expense of the unemployed.
“The ANC seems to have lost faith in the capacity of its alliance partners to use our labour democracy to negotiate a fair deal for workers.”
Zuma was adamant that the ANC could carry out its ambitious plans. “The ANC adopted the National Development Plan in line with the objective to build the national democratic society. The plan is a living and dynamic document.”