Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa File photo: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

Johannesbmurg - The acceleration of radical economic transformation in South Africa needs a bold new deal to fight poverty, unemployment and inequality, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.

"Poverty, unemployment and inequality continue as defining features of our society. In the face of poverty, unemployment and inequality continues to be black. The struggle to ensure that all South Africans share in the country’s wealth must therefore stand at the centre of our national agenda," Ramaphosa said.

"This is why we need to do something new, something bold, to strike a “new deal” among all stakeholders that are committed to accelerating radical economic transformation. This should be a new deal that has a clear action plan with defined timeframes and a clear set of enabling conditions."

Speaking at the ANC Johannesburg region's economic colloquium in Orlando east, Soweto, Ramaphosa said that 23 years democracy,  it should be acknowledged that not all South Africans have reaped the economic dividend of their hard fought democracy.

He said South Africa's economy and society needed to be transformed. He said that there were also structural features of the South African economy that needed to be radically transformed. 

"It is a fact that the democratic state inherited a broken, deformed, unequal and unjust economy. The economy we inherited was in crisis and near collapse. It was an economy that was designed under colonialism and apartheid to serve the needs of the white minority, and to deliberately exclude over 80 percent of the population," he said. 

He said that places like Soweto -- which were neglected during apartheid -- are where the future of the South African economy lies. 

"It is in places like Soweto that the radical economic transformation of our country will take place and where its effects will most keenly be felt. It is the people living in townships, informal settlements and rural towns and villages who will occupy the new jobs that growth and transformation will bring, and whose families will benefit from rising standards of living," he said. 

"It is in these areas that young and black entrepreneurs will emerge, new businesses will be established, new factories must be opened, new social infrastructure developed and where new technological innovations will emerge. If this is not the face and the future of our economy, then our economy has no future."

Ramaphosa said places like Sandton may be where shares were traded, deals were signed and new corporate headquarters were established, but places like Soweto and the villages are where the African National Congress’ programme of social and economic transformation should be implemented. 

He said South Africa was engaged in the struggle for the economic emancipation of South Africans and said that the true objective of the Freedom Charter was to "free our people from the bondage of economic oppression and exploitation". 

Outlining concerns, including the economy stalling; social progress slowing; not creating the jobs needed; or advancing social cohesion, Ramaphosa said that the challenges the South African economy was currently facing were rooted in the structural iniquities of apartheid, the ability to overcome these challenges "has been undermined over the last decade by a failure of leadership and misguided priorities". 

"This is a reality that we, as the ANC, need to acknowledge and correct. This is a pivotal moment in the country's history, which presents both grave threats and significant opportunities. For the first time since the advent of democracy, there is a real chance that the transformation of our country may suffer significant reverses. We must act now -- boldly, decisively and collectively -- to change the trajectory of our economy and our country," he said. 

"There is a need for a decisive new approach. We need a new deal for South Africa. A new deal for jobs, growth and transformation that will turn the economy around and build a more equal society. This new deal will and must bring together government, business, labour and civil society in a meaningful and effective social compact to construct a prosperous, just society founded on opportunities for all."

He said the "new deal" would be the product of a shared commitment by all stakeholders and a plan of action with concrete delivery, firm commitments, definite timelines and a new and spirited urgency. 

Ramaphosa also called for a stop to corruption, saying: "To those with vested interests in ineffective governance, deliberate misgovernance, hidden deals, the concentration of economic control and unfair labour practices, we say: no more!"