South Africa needs a new economic consensus
17 July 2019
Fellow South Africans
I would like to extend my condolences to the family of a truly great South African, Johnny Clegg, who left us yesterday.
His humanity and grace will live on forever through his incredible musical legacy. Lala ngoxolo, Johnny.
Tomorrow we will honour the birthday of another great South African and statesman when we celebrate Mandela Day.
We will remember the immense contribution this leader made to our country by uniting us around a shared vision, and by establishing our 1994 constitutional pact.
This pact confirmed that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. This was the beginning of a journey.
But today our 1994 consensus is no longer holding. More and more, people are retreating back into their corners of racial solidarity. And so we need to establish a new economic consensus that will lead us into a new era.
We need a Presidency that is able to deliver a shared vision of prosperity for all our citizens.
This will require leadership that is bold and accountable. It will require a vision for our country based on the values of freedom, fairness, opportunity and a diverse society.
It will require the kind of consensus that the DA is already building among South Africans: The pursuit of a common dream, the reconciliation of black and white, young and old. And the building of a prosperous nation. One South Africa for all.
If we don’t achieve this consensus – if we don’t focus on the “for all” part – it doesn’t matter whether it’s the 4th Industrial Revolution or the Green Economy, we will simply entrench the South Africa of insiders and outsiders.
We need to build a country where citizens are safe, where there is work for all, and where learners are prepared for the future. The role of the Presidency is to give us a government that works, and to make the tough decisions when required to do so.
And so, after an extended fight, the DA welcomes the deployment of the SANDF to communities under siege from gangsters and criminals.
It is now up to your office to inform this House, sooner rather than later, about the terms of this SANDF deployment.
And let us now demonstrate the same commitment to our rural communities. Let us show farmers and farm workers that they too deserve our protection. Let us take the war to the criminals everywhere.
If we are to achieve this new consensus for all South Africans, we will have to agree on three areas of reform: The first is around economic growth, the second is around fairness and inclusivity, and the third is the building of a capable state.
For starters, we all have to agree that meaningful economic growth is all that matters. And we need to get business, labour, government and every South African citizen behind this idea.
To achieve this we will need to make tough choices on everything from labour legislation and SOEs to policies on the NHI, the national minimum wage and the Reserve Bank.
If the buck does stop at your desk, Mr President, then it is you who will need to make those choices.
Let’s pass the Jobs Act as proposed by the DA. This Act covers many interventions that could stimulate our economy.
Let us streamline red tape for business owners, and let us revive sectors like manufacturing through tax incentives.
Let us deal decisively with our SOEs. Rather than bailing them out, let us split Eskom in two, let us bring in an equity partner for SAA and let us review the mandates of the other SOEs.
Mr President, city-led economic growth is the future of our country, and we need to do all we can to place our cities at the forefront of our growth strategy. It is then extremely concerning that, due to factional battles in your party, the city of eThekwini is falling apart and you have taken no action.
Regardless of how it gets resolved, our economy is suffering and we cannot sit idly by.
But, Honourable Members, a growing economy means little if all our people cannot participate in it. So how do we ensure inclusion and justice in this plan?
We cannot talk about inclusive growth and yet persist with narrow economic empowerment.
We must start by admitting that B-BBEE has not delivered economic inclusion. It is a fig leaf for redress and it does nothing for 99% of South Africa’s excluded citizens.
Scrap B-BBEE, Mr President, and replace it with a plan that offers real broad-based inclusion in our economy.
Apartheid’s devastating effect on black families was to destroy any chance of wealth accumulation and wealth transfer.
Today, the majority of South Africans remain poor because these issues were never addressed. If we want to talk about meaningful redress, this is where we must start.
Let’s build a new model for wealth transfer that includes property title, share ownership and pension savings.
Let us start by privatising tribal and government-owned land, and giving people title to this land. At the stroke of a pen, families will become property owners and the foundations for wealth transfer will be laid.
The protection of private property rights for all citizens is the bedrock of future prosperity for all.
Then, once we have stabilised and privatised our SOEs, let us disburse shares in these companies to South Africans. Now suddenly we’re talking about household savings and pensions – something unheard of for most families until now.
But none of these economic or societal reforms will be possible without bold leadership and the building of a building a capable, uncaptured state.
Five months ago, during your State of the Nation Address, you told us you were a man of action, Mr President.
Invoking Theodore Roosevelt, you led us to believe that you were the man in the arena, the doer of deeds whose face was marred by dust and sweat and blood.
But in reality, all this Presidency has produced so far is plans, commissions and promises. There is no sign yet of the man in the arena, the doer of deeds.
You’ve spoken at length about cleaning up the state and government, but this never went beyond talk.
The SIU is still lying dormant. The NPA has no money to operate. No one has been charged, arrested or prosecuted.
Some are still sitting here with us, chairing portfolio committees.
That’s not the man in the arena, Mr President. That’s just the man watching the arena.
Your office, the Presidency, needs to be defined by actions, not words.
Honourable Members, we must establish an oversight committee over the Presidency. It has often been said that, in writing the Constitution, the authors had Nelson Mandela in mind while they should have foreseen Jacob Zuma.
An oversight committee will ensure that, whether it’s President Mandela, Zuma, Ramaphosa or any future president, the office of the president will be accountable to the people through this House.
It will ensure that this Presidency’s budget is spent where it should be, and not on the legal defense of the president.
Pay your own legal fees, Mr President. If this really is a new era for the Presidency, then show the people of South Africa how it is different from the old one.
If you were the man in the arena, Mr President, then the revelations at the Zondo Commission would have spurred you into action. But yet we see nothing from you.
Mr Zuma’s testimony is either that of a deranged man, or he was part of a team that worked to destroy our nation.
In Zuma’s own words, those who now speak of nine wasted years were party to the decisions taken during those nine years, or party to their implementation.
You sat on that team, as the No.2 to Zuma’s No.1, and you were silent then. Will you continue to be silent now, as your party is flayed and its entrails laid out at the commission?
Don’t you owe it to this House to return here tomorrow and assure us that you will go to the commission and set the record straight?
We need a president who acts, not one who sits idly by.
In the words of former President Mandela, “We can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities. And we dare not linger for our long walk is not ended.”
You dare not linger, Mr President.
You need to choose your country over your party. You need to change what isn’t working, because simply doing more of the same will get us nowhere.
If you choose the path of reform, you will have an ally in the DA. Together we can rebuild the consensus we lost as a nation – a new 2019 consensus that will see us through the next ten years.
But if you choose not to – if you’d rather not upset the status quo – then we will bring the change without you.
The choice is yours, Mr President.
Issued by Mmusi Maimane, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 17 July 2019