African National Congress (ANC) national chairperson and Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete (left) and Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, at the ANCs 5th national policy conference in Johannesburg. Picture: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

Johannesburg – After 23 years of governance, the African National Congress (ANC) has realised that it needed to start doing things differently, particularly on the land question, Small Business Development Minister and head of the ANC's drafting committee, Lindiwe Zulu, said on Tuesday.

“In the main, people are pushing us only on to this subject of radical economic transformation, but the debates there [at the 5th national policy conference of the ANC] are way bigger than that. The debates are addressing how we can ensure that the economy of South Africa benefits the majority. How can we make sure that the face of poverty is reduced from being just black people? How can we make sure that communities are empowered to take charge of their economic space? The discussions are way bigger,” Zulu told journalists at the conference in Johannesburg. 

“At the end of the day, we are very clear as an organisation that to address poverty, unemployment and inequality, you need to begin to do things in a different way. Twenty three years of experience in government has shown us that there are certain things where we were not very strong in dealing with, for example the issue of land. The land redistribution has become a really, really critical issue. It’s not critical because of the ANC, but because ordinary people of South Africa … they need the land.”

Zulu, who is also President Jacob Zuma’s former envoy on the Zimbabwean political impasse, said the land question had become high on the agenda because “people are realising now that we had certain policies that helped us to a certain level”, but those same policies had weaknesses.

Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, at the ANCs 5th national policy conference in Johannesburg. VIDEO: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

“Now it is time for us to relook into how we can exactly make sure that the land is redistributed to the people who work it, and make sure that even when it comes to property – those that need to be given their property, must be given,” said Zulu emphatically.

Journalists asked Zulu for her views on whether the policies being mooted or implemented under the ANC regime would not scare away investors from the already ailing South African economy. 

She said the governing party was fully cognisant of its actions and the effects thereof.

“At the end of the day, the interest is about the people of South Africa. I think that the investors themselves, wherever they invest anywhere in the world, they always have to consider the conditions of the people of the country. National interests come first for us. It is unsustainable when we do not address the challenges faced by the majority of our people,” said Zulu.

“You can bring all your investors and be excited about them, but as long as the people of South Africa do not begin to see the value of what you are trying to do, then it becomes a problem. You can end up with a revolt and a revolt will not even be good for the investors themselves.”

Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, at the ANCs 5th national policy conference in Johannesburg. VIDEO: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

She said investors’ resources were better secured in a country with peace, security and prosperity.

“For us as an organisation to pretend as if our communities are still not struggling because we have to feed the investors, really it is going to turn around and create a big problem for us. We are, however, conscious of the fact that we live in a global world and there are certain things which are globally accepted and some which are globally unacceptable,” said Zulu.

“We are pleading with everyone who knows the history of South Africa, who knows that the majority of the people were left out [of the mainstream economy during apartheid] – let us carry them along with us. We are also conscious that we are not under socialism, this is capitalism … but let the uniqueness of South Africa be understood.”

Security remained tight around the Nasrec Expo Centre, south of Johannesburg, where the ANC’s national policy conference is being hosted.