Ben Turok’s wife Mary Butcher and former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe greet each other at the memorial service for the ANC veteran. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
Ben Turok’s wife Mary Butcher and former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe greet each other at the memorial service for the ANC veteran. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

'Look to the ocean for economic growth': Motlanthe presses new agenda

By BULELWA PAYI Time of article published Jan 19, 2020

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Cape Town - Former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe has called on the government to urgently pursue the maritime economy as an economic growth driver.

Motlanthe was speaking at a memorial service in honour of ANC veteran and anti-aparheid activist Professor Ben Turok, who died in December at 92.

Former cabinet ministers Pallo Jordan, Ronnie Kasrils and Rob Davies, former Constitutional Court judge Albie Sachs and former public protector Thuli Madonsela  were present at Community House in Salt River - a centre of political activism - to pay tribute.

Turok wrote the economic clause of the ANC’s Freedom Charter and was a champion of the party’s Reconstruction and Development Programme.

Motlanthe said in addition to reviving state-owned enterprises it was imperative to look at alternative methods of driving an inclusive and sustainable economic growth. 

“With the discovery of oil on South African shores and the country being the only one in the African continent with expansive access to and control over sea waters, our maritime potential and economic benefits are boundless,” Motlanthe said.

He said a recent global labour survey indicated that green economies worldwide could create 40 million jobs in various sectors.

“The rich endowments of minerals, oil, gas, wind and sun place South Africa in good stead of potentially becoming a source of economic growth and influence in the continent of Africa.”

Motlanthe said there was also an urgent need to approach policy and the existing way of doing business in a different manner.

Motlanthe said while there was a general view that state ownership could have certain advantages in furthering social outcomes and providing infrastructure, it was also vital that a value-creation approach should be followed as it provided a framework when considering whether the government should have or retain an ownership stake in an enterprise.

Motlanthe said the Pan African Investment and Research Services offered recommendations for reviving economic growth with an emphasis on defining a set of programmes where SOEs could work together to create investments, industrialisation and job creation.

These included a clear ownership policy, constant monitoring and evaluation of the entities with regard to operations, how they deployed capital and their effectiveness.

It also recommended that SOEs should justify the rationale for their existence based on value creation with clear developmental impact.

“Where there’s no clear potential to developmental impact and value yielded such entities should be allowed to die rather than be on continuous life support,” Motlanthe said.

He warned that if the “multiplicity” of problems facing the SOEs were not properly diagnosed, any turn-around strategy might address only the symptoms on the surface.

“The time to do so is not on the side of the economy,” he warned, adding that the impatient youth were waiting on the current leaders to lay the foundation for the future.

Motlanthe said Turok had believed the government was not doing enough to pursue its economic policies to ensure inclusive economic growth.

“He believed and understood that we are running out of time and need a radical approach to governing in South Africa.”

Other speakers described Turok as an intellectual, outspoken, bold and not scared to criticise his own party.

Madonsela said Turok had had the courage to step out of line.

“The first instance was when he abstained from voting for the Protection of State Information Bill.

“The second was when he was a joint chairperson of the ethics committee. There’s an unwritten mafia code which says that you can work hard but don’t touch the family. When Ben started touching it, the family fought back”, Madonsela said. 

Jordan hailed Turok for being an independent thinker. “Just as much as being a collective is important, we need people such as Turok who was a pioneer and broke ranks when necessary.”

One of Turok’s sons, Ivan, offered a glimpse into his late father’s life, from the early time in Belarus and later his flight after the rise of  fascism.

In South Africa, he was a founder member of the Congress of Democrats, “the white partner” to the ANC and the SA Indian Congress. He was charged with treason along with former president Nelson Mandela and others.

Weekend Argus

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