Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa says all South Africans must be active and enthusiastic participants in the economic transformation of the country and approach the project with the same fervor they had for the initial transition to democracy.
“If we are to progress as a democratic nation what we need to do is to go beyond slogans to the heart of the matter and look at what needs to be done to redress the imbalances of the past. Therefore we must focus on the real substance of radical economic transformation and the steps that we need to take‚" Ramaphosa said.
Addressing a capacity audience at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), Ramaphosa said the country’s central task should be to transform the structure of the economy to one that doesn’t just benefit a minority, and to build a more equal society through sustained growth in order to move towards inclusivity.
“Those with education and skills should be on hand to help,” he continued.
Radical Economic Transformation
The principles of redress, redistribution, social justice and equality have always been at the centre of ANC economic policy, Ramaphosa explained.
“Given the extent of dispossession‚ discrimination‚ exploitation and exclusion, the Freedom Charter was a call for radical and fundamental economic transformation.”
The second phase of the democratic transition – that of the pursuit of socio-economic freedom – was ushered in at the ANC’s Mangaung Conference in 2012 with the adoption of the National Development Plan.
We must have an understanding of what dispossession has done in order to move forward, Ramaphosa said: "Apartheid colonialism wreaked havoc on many South Africans, not only through the denial of democracy, but also through the dispossession of the majority”
The term radical economic transformation indicates an intensification and acceleration of the economic transformation process and is not a break with existing policy, but is rather about building a more equal society through sustained inclusive growth, he said.
“It does not represent a new, uncertain path.”
Part of the problem with the current conversation around radical economic transformation was that the term had been misused, misrepresented or misunderstood: “It is has become accepted in many quarters that the term radical economic transformation is often deployed to either mask or justify activities that could be best described as state capture.” However, if we are to progress as a democratic nation, we need to ensure that we are not distracted by this misuse he argued.
He continued that the growth of the South African economy was being held back by concentration of ownership and management control, which meant the resources and capabilities of all of our people were not being fully utilised. Addressing this concern would help to create stability.
“Our country will see radical change in the next ten to twenty years. It is not just rhetoric,” he said.
Policy certainty for growth
It was a matter of great concern that the country is in recession, that business confidence has declined and that our sovereign credit rating has been downgraded, the deputy president said, as “these developments severely undermine our efforts to fundamentally transform our economy.”
However, he reassured the audience that many countries go through moments of instability and loss of confidence and that “we have been through trying moments before.” He admitted there have been moments of policy uncertainty but said, “all problems and challenges are being addressed” and clarity on a number of issues would be provided as an outcome of the ANC’s policy conference at the end of June.
“The ANC will come out of the National Conference in December united and will continue being the guardian of this country for a long time. We still have institutions that function and are durable. The wheels have not come off.”
Addressing questions from the audience, Ramaphosa admitted the governance structures of many state owned entities had been “a real challenge as they have been operating in silos.” He said government had urged operational discipline and prudence and would be “focused and businesslike in order to lessen the burden on taxpayers.”
Ramaphosa said he placed a premium on consensus building as the best way to take the country forward and said business leaders must be commended for staying the course of engagements with government, and for not becoming disheartened.
“We all hold a great deal of hope in a better tomorrow and are working on the basis that we will turn a corner.”