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President Jacob Zuma closed the ANC’s policy conference acknowledging that proposals agreed to by delegates fell short of the “giant leap” he had wanted to see but warning that the gains of democracy “will be put at great risk” if a business-as-usual approach continues while South Africans “feel the pain” of unemployment, poverty and inequality.
Zuma shrugged off suggestions that the conference marked a personal defeat for him and was a blow to his re-election chances at the Mangaung national conference in December.
“It’s not a question of theory, it’s the plight of the poor,” he warned, conceding that the conference had agreed to speed up social and economic change.
He said the ANC urged all South Africans “to appreciate that unless we decisively deal with racialised and gendered inequality, poverty and unemployment, our collective democratic and constitutional achievements will be put at grave risk”.
In spite of Zuma’s comments, proposals on restructuring the economy and social transformation that will now go to Mangaung for ratification reflect little major deviation from previous ANC conference resolutions:
l Wholesale nationalisation of the mines and other sectors of the economy – the cause of some jitters – was defeated in behind-closed-doors discussions, despite hard arguing by ANC Youth League members and trade unionists.
“With regard to minerals, there was broad consensus that minerals belong to the people as a whole, and should be governed by the democratic developmental state in the interests of all South Africans,” Zuma said.
The state should “capture an equitable share of mineral resource rents and deploy them in the interests of long-term economic growth, development and transformation”.
Expropriation of land without compensation is off the table, although the policy of willing buyer-willing seller is to be replaced by what Zuma described as the “just and equitable” principle in the constitution, where the state acquires land for the purposes of land reform.
l Foreigners in SA will not be allowed to own land if another recommendation is agreed to at Mangaung – in keeping with the government’s land reform policy proposals.
He said an audit of state-owned land and surveys of public land must be completed by December.
Remaining upbeat about his own future, Zuma yesterday said the “conference has the final word, not individuals, not the NEC”.
The ANC branches - “in their wisdom” - had decided against characterising the next stage of the country’s transformation as a “second transition”, he added.
“The branches of the ANC in their wisdom have declared that we are in a continuing transition from apartheid colonialism to a national democratic society,” Zuma said. Interventions to speed up change, especially with regard to the economy, would be known instead as the “second phase of the transition”.
Yesterday he said the shift would require maximum unity of the ANC and the alliance, and that maximum unity of the SA people would need to be rebuilt.
He highlighted the “skewed ownership and management of the SA economy, which needs to be corrected”.
Excluding the value of foreign operations, the gross black ownership of SA assets on the JSE was equivalent to 6.8 percent, Zuma said.
“Our simple estimate of black economic empowerment’s net value - which is the value that remains after subtracting debts owed by black shareholders, but without taking into account debt repayment through dividend payments - is R78 billion.”
This was equivalent to 3.3 percent of the value of SA assets on the JSE. Gross BEE market capitalisation (excluding debts owed by black shareholders) was estimated at R170bn - equivalent to “just above 3 percent of the JSE’s total market capitalisation”.
“Obviously this state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue forever,” Zuma said to applause.
Zuma said the following state interventions were proposed:
l Financial regulation and control, including through a state-owned bank.
l Wage and income policies that promote growth and address poverty and inequality.
l Competition policies aligned to development objectives.
l A well-resourced, state-led programme to implement industrial and trade policies.
l State ownership, including more strategic use of existing state-owned companies.
l The Broad-based BEE Act, would be reviewed to ensure women were prioritised.
Scores of policy proposals agreed to at the conference will now go back to branches for further discussion and fine-tuning.