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With 18 months before the elections and hardly weeks after its conference, the ANC has used its anniversary to reveal radical legislative changes and a drastic push on emotive and controversial policies such as land, mining and health.
President Jacob Zuma yesterday provided a sneak preview into what the party’s 2014 election manifesto could look like.
Addressing a capacity crowd at Kings Park Stadium, KwaZulu-Natal, and flanked by his party deputy Cyril Ramaphosa and deputy in government Kgalema Motlanthe, Zuma heralded details that will also lead to a series of legislative changes as early as this year.
He also outlined potential changes to the tax and licensing regime that govern mining in South Africa.
“We have also resolved that the state must capture an equitable share of mineral resource rents through the tax system and deploy them in the interests of long-term economic growth, development and transformation. Government must implement this resolution,” he said.
Taxation on super-profits is in the offing along the lines of what the ANC’s research report, State Intervention in Minerals Sector (Sims), recommends.
The Sims report proposes state control through the introduction of a 50percent resource rent tax, or a super-tax which kicks in only when an investor has made a reasonable return, so as not to deter investors.
ANC insiders say this could replace the existing royalty regime.
The upcoming Mining Indaba in February is expected to shed more light on the issue with Zuma potentially outlining the changes in his State of the Nation Address in the second week in February.
Mining companies should also expect tough penalties for not complying with new rules governing beneficiation, particularly in strategic sectors such as platinum, steel and coal that will form part of the anticipated changes to the legislation.
In December, ANC officials stressed that all interventions into the mineral sector will be “evidence based” and will be done on a case by case basis. The investment community, both domestically and globally, have lamented the policy uncertainty in the mining sector, citing it as a risk factor that deters investment. The election of Ramaphosa, a wealthy businessman with interests in mining to the ANC’s top six has gone some way to mitigate the lack of trust between ANC policy makers and the business community.
At a gala dinner on Friday, attended by sections of business, Zuma urged business to come to the party and engage the ANC.
He used his speech to mark the party’s birth-week, the January 8th statement, to encourage them to participate actively in the government’s massive infrastructure roll-out plans.
Zuma said the economy faced “skewed patterns of ownership and production” characterised by inequality. He also slammed what he called the “the monopoly domination of the economy” and said it impeded the goals of economic transformation, growth and development.
While the ANC has opted for a mixed economy, rejecting wholesale nationalisation as advocated by its youth league, Zuma was firm on an expanded role for the state. “Within this mixed economy, we reaffirm the active and interventionist role of the state in ensuring economic development. It must be a state that has the capacity to intervene in the economy to lead development”.
On the land question, the ANC wants to reopen the lodgement date for claims and provide for the exception to the 1913 cut-off date to accommodate historical landmarks, heritage sites and descendants of the Khoi and San who lost their land long before 1913.
“These amendments to our laws will take effect this year,” Zuma said. The infamous 1913 Land Act was introduced a century ago, which marked the dispossession of land from the black majority.
“There will be special programmes to remember the injustices perpetrated under the 1913 Land Act. We call on all South Africans to commemorate this landmark, with a view to correcting the wrongs of the past and to cement reconciliation.”
Zuma admitted that the government was unlikely to meet its target of transferring 30percent of the 82million hectares of agricultural land, which was white-owned in 1994, to black people by 2014.
Land remains an emotive issue in South Africa. Zuma appealed for co-operation between those “needing lands” and “those who need to release land”.
Zuma also used the opportunity to reveal that plans were in place to introduce the National Health Insurance Fund by next year. While details on how the NHI Fund will work remains sketchy, it is understood that it will operate as an independent agency reporting directly to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan could use his February budget speech to provide clarity on how the fiscus would back up the NHI Fund.
The government’s much-vaunted one trillion rand infrastructure roll-out plan, the bedrock of its stimulus package to boost economic growth also came under the spotlight.
“We call on government to hasten the implementation of all 18 strategic infrastructure projects, especially those directed at the 23 poorest districts in the country. The projects focusing on the 23 districts will ensure the provision of water, electricity and sanitation and will change the lives of approximately 19million people,” he said.
Zuma, buoyed by his re-election for a second term wooed the 50 000 strong crowd in his home province.
This speech was preceded by messages of support from ANC’s left allies and all the leagues, including the ANC youth league who opposed his on-going leadership of the party.
Deputy ANC Youth League president Ronald Lamola swore loyalty to the Mangaung leadership, extending an olive branch to the mother body, which is yet to decide how to rebuild the youth formation, a move that could see a sea change in the youth league.
Lamola told the gathering that the youth league did not suffer from a “Mangaung hangover” and accepted Zuma’s leadership.
He called on government to declare youth unemployment a “national emergency”.
Young people make up the bulk of South Africa’s voters and will be an important constituency in the 2014 elections.
Zuma is keen to have a youth league firmly on side when the party goes into campaign mode, seeking to hold onto and improve its dominance at the polls.
Zuma emphasised the unity of the ANC but warned that undisciplined behaviour would nto be tolerated.
The ANC’s elections task team under the leadership of Deputy Justice Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi has already started work on the party’s elections strategy which will depend on maximum unity within the ruling party, especially after the succession battle divisions last year. - The Sunday Independent