Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba speaks to journalists at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2017 meeting in Durban. Picture: Rogan Ward/Reuters
Durban – South African Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Wednesday the ruling ANC)had a moral obligation to justify the support it enjoys from the voters by dealing with niggling issues of youth unemployment, corruption and economic transformation.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa in Durban, Gigaba said arguments that the ANC had been conservative in approaching economic transformation held some water as there was more the governing party could have done to change the lives of poor people during the past 23 years of democracy.

Gigaba said this could have included developing productive economy in the townships, changing regulatory framework, and upskilling the youth to avoid increasing levels of unemployed young people.

“My argument would be that we could have better changed the structure of production in the economy to diversify and create a thriving manufacturing sector. We have done it to some extent, yes, we could have done more and we could have focused more on beneficiation and developing the skills and capabilities of young people and implemented greater investment into SMMEs,” Gigaba said.

“The challenges of incumbency for ruling parties is quite a real one. And the African National Congress is fully aware that it must continuously renew itself in order for it continue to enjoy the confidence of the masses.

“The ANC must continue to justify that confidence it enjoys from the masses of people by running a clean government, by fighting corruption wherever its traces appear, and most importantly by implementing transformative programmes that will bring on board those that are excluded and that’s where the story of inclusive growth comes in and must be embedded in our DNA.”

Gigaba, who has been on a drive to champion radical economic transformation and inclusive growth since his appointment a month ago, said the country needed to reach a point where transformation was not synonymous with corruption.

The minister said that National Treasury, in conjunction with the chief procurement officer, would continue waging a fight against corruption whilst ensuring that previously disadvantaged groups benefit from government procurement programmes as per policy.

“We are concerned about corruption, and we are aware that around the country at different levels in public and the private sector, corruption does take place. That is why we are fighting it as hard as we have and support the institutions that fight corruption,” Gigaba said.

“But the fight against corruption must not at the same time but become a fight against transformation. We must not get ourselves into a position where we use, in the same sentence, transformation and corruption as if bringing black people into the economy means corruption. We need to put ourselves in a position where we can achieve transformation without reducing transformation to corruption.”

Gigaba ended by reiterating his call that Treasury would continue to play a fiscal prudence role in government expenditure programmes and would not allow to be bullied by anyone into spending what the country cannot afford.