A fair question, following a series of engagements between the government and business to mitigate the economic instability caused partly by the sudden firing of finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015. While facilitated by then finance minister Pravin Gordhan, then president Zuma had himself addressed some of these Nine-Point Plan consultation sessions.
“Thank you, honourable member, for your question,” said Speaker Baleka Mbete. “Honourable Mr President!”
“We have talked about the Nine-Point Plan many times in this Parliament the Speaker is very much aware of the points in the Nine-Point Plan, we have talked about them,” answered Zuma unconvincingly. Mbete interjected to call the House to order as the howling rose, expressing dissatisfaction with the answer.
With calm restored, Zuma continued: “it includes agriculture, among others. And they are many. You have seen them”. Maynier jumped up under the famous point-of-order rule: “The president is clearly clueless about the Nine-Point Plan.” At which point, Mbete interjected again: “That is not a point of order, honourable member,” and moved on to the next question.
Gordhan was subsequently to be recalled from a roadshow to promote the very Nine-Point Plan to international investors and fired for reasons never stated by Zuma. The embarrassing question-and-answer incident in Parliament is one of many that reflects the greatest difficulty of the past nine years - the lack of coherence and co-ordination of policy at the centre of government. We have heard of the National Development Plan, the New Growth Path, Operation Phakisa, etc, one fading after the other.
In the latter years, the rhetoric slanted to what is now termed radical economic transformation (RET) and its key opponent identified as white monopoly capital (WMC). The role of the now-defunct British PR agency Bell Pottinger in conceptualising and/or manipulating these concepts (RET and WMC) in favour of the economic interests of their client, the Gupta family, will remain a subject of study of ethics in the practice of PR/communication for years to come.
The proposed increase in transformation targets in the Mining Charter is probably a good example that indeed the government is serious about RET.
The resistance from the Chamber of Mines is a proof that, yes indeed, WMC is fighting back. It explains why Zuma and Mining Minister Mosebenzi Zwane are under scrutiny from the media, also owned by WMC.
The woes of the Gupta family are presented as another onslaught by WMC and its media against black economic transformation. That is despite the fact that the Guptas, by law, do not qualify to be beneficiaries of black economic empowerment as they were not naturalised black South Africans before 1994. In other words, they were not victimised by apartheid policies.
Parallel to the RET agenda you had the social grant situation where the Minister of Social Development seems to be hell-bent on retaining the contract for the distribution of grants with a white, foreign owned company. Rather risk contempt of court and a possible personal liability for legal costs than to constructively work on the possible transfer of this function another state-owned entity, the Post Office.
Overlay that with economically illiterate statements from senior leaders like - “the rand can fall, we will pick it up” - you have an image of a government that has no consideration of economic fundamentals. The government led by President Cyril Ramaphosa faces a great task of building the fundamentals - coherence and consistency of policy across government especially on the economy.
The Budget speech by the finance minister presents the first opportunity for the new government to signal to business and other sectors what economic policy direction it is taking. Budget 2018 is a critical opportunity to demonstrate that there is a plan or an intention to ignite the South African economy and create much-needed jobs.
Sibani Mngadi is a corporate affairs executive working in the private sector.
The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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