IN THEIR HANDS: ANC leaders Gwede Mantashe, Mathews Phosa, Jacob Zuma and Kgalema Motlanthe at the partys policy conference in Midrand earlier this year. Economic growth and job creation are at the heart of key debates that will take place in Mangaung, says the writer.

In a few days, the much-anticipated congress of the ANC will convene in Mangaung. Representatives of the party from all its branches will deliberate the key policy choices facing the movement at the dusk of its centenary.

The key preoccupation of the ANC as a party of liberation and a ruling party is how to accelerate the fight against poverty, inequality and unemployment.

At the dawn of freedom, the ANC opted for a mixed economy as a deliberate approach that does not take an easy way out, determined simply by purist ideological choice.

The reality of our economy is that we have to straddle the contributions of both public and private sectors in making the whole function.

Hard questions have to be asked about the commitment of the private sector towards the creation of sustainable jobs. Is the private sector ready to reinvest within the country or does it prefer merely to keep its profits in low interest-earning savings accounts?

The recent declaration by some in the business community, pledging to work with the government and the ANC to build confidence in the economy, is heartening. But this has to be translated into tangible action that will produce much-needed jobs. Such a partnership with the private sector may take our economic growth to another level.

This brings us to another important question – that of state participation in the economy, and the extent of such participation.

There are some who expect the state simply to allow the market to dictate the economic growth path, while the state sits as a spectator on the sidelines.

Debates both within the tripartite alliance and in civil society and business have underlined the key policy options that the ANC needs to decide on. Whatever we debate or decide must steer our policy direction towards pragmatic ways of ensuring we are able to grow our economy, and enable economic activity that creates job growth.

There has been a sense in which the state has been seen as apologetic for putting its stamp on the economic direction the country should take. The discussions that started at the policy conference early this year are aimed at addressing this, with a potential outcome of decisive moves that will ensure economic growth concomitant with the huge challenge that has been highlighted by the recent census.

This year saw the adoption of the National Development Plan (NDP) by the cabinet. This plan has been embraced by business, civil society and all political parties, and it will be at the heart of discussions in Mangaung. While the ANC has already endorsed the NDP, its proposals must find expression in all sectoral policy statements of the ANC and therefore guide all its deployees in all levers of the state.

Everyone in charge of any centre of service delivery will be expected to align all their current plans to this overarching plan to make sure there is proper implementation.

Over the past three years the ANC has debated the question of nationalisation. A clear policy directive in this regard is expected to emerge at the conference. Following thorough research, the ANC conference will now be in a position to make a decision.

A few key issues will guide this debate, including the question of existing policy, the implementation of the mining charter and international best practice. In addition, we will debate the question of beneficiation of our natural resources and how South Africa can become a price-making country when it comes to mineral assets in which it is dominant, such as platinum. This debate also comes against the backdrop of the Marikana tragedy, which began to put the transformation of the mining industry into sharp focus.

The ANC will deliberate on these issues to ensure we protect our dominant position in the world when it comes to mining exports while maximising the way our people benefit from these resources.

Next year marks the centenary of the horrendous Land Act of 1913. The ANC will use its conference to examine the progress it has made in dealing with the redistribution of land.

It is clear that the pace of this area of economic development has been slow. Issues about how to apply the principle of willing seller-willing buyer will be tackled. New proposals to appoint a valuer general for the speedy redistribution of land will be unpacked and finalised to give new momentum to this crucial area of economic development.

One of the crucial discussions that the conference will be seized with is the important political issue of how to deracialise our economy and broaden the base of economic activity. The question of black economic empowerment will be on the table for review.

The conference will contribute to the current public process that is meant to strengthen this crucial intervention in economic development

We believe the ANC has done plenty over the past 20 years to progress the question of economic emancipation. However, there is no doubt that the challenges facing the country are still stark, and all of us need to do more in order to undo decades of colonialism and inequality. This will ensure that all our people can enjoy the fruits of freedom.