"No one is bigger than the ANC" - Jacob Zuma

Speech by the ANC president at an interaction with black business October 7 2008

Address delivered by ANC President Jacob Zuma at the interaction with Black Business Representatives, Sandton Sun, October 7 2008

Programme Director, Sandile Zungu,
The Treasurer General of the ANC, Cde Matthews Phosa,
President of NAFCOC, Ms Buhle Mthethwa,
President of the Black Management Forum, Mr Jimmy Manyi,
CEO of Business Unity South Africa, Mr Jerry Vilakazi,

Good evening.

It is wonderful that we are finally able to meet today and interact directly. It is useful for us to be able to discuss face to face from time to time.

We had to hit the ground running after the Polokwane conference and have not had enough time to meet and share ideas about how to take our country forward.

And it is proving to be an eventful and busy year. The ANC emerged from the Polokwane conference fully aware that a lot of work lay ahead to rebuild the movement and promote unity.

We stated clearly in our January 8 statement that we would pay particular attention to the unity and cohesion of the movement.

The great strength of the ANC over its 96 years of struggle has been its ability to unite the people of South Africa and for itself to remain a united, coherent organ of popular action. We will not rest until we have achieved this goal.

We came back from Polokwane with a clear programme of organisational renewal, which we embarked upon from the beginning of the year.

This has included working earnestly with our structures on the ground to rebuild the movement so that we can move forward as one united organisation. We believe we have made substantial progress in various provinces, while challenges still remain in one or two others, which we are still working on.

Needless to say there has been a lot of movement in government as well. In the last fortnight a new government came into office, led by Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe, our new President of the Republic assisted by the national chairperson of the ANC, Comrade Baleka Mbete as our country's Deputy President.

We have pledged full support to our government and will work tirelessly to make the team succeed as we have always done. We recently went through a painful period during which the National Executive Committee (NEC) recalled the then President of the Republic, Comrade Thabo Mbeki. Such a decision can never be pleasant, but had to be taken in the interest of allowing the country and the ANC to move forward.

We have acknowledged the sterling contribution made by Former President Mbeki to our country and the continent at large. Government has performed exceptionally well under his leadership, we will be facing the electorate with our heads held high as we know that the ANC government has made substantial progress in delivering basic services to our people.

From the government led by our icon, Isithwandwe Tata Mandela to the Mbeki administration, the ANC has moved a step further in meeting its mandate.

We want to make sure that the service delivery record is not interrupted. Therefore, we repeat the call we made in our January 8 anniversary statement this year that there should not be any apprehension about relations between the ANC and its government. We reiterate the NEC directive issued in the January 8 statement, in which we said that we were aware of the responsibility to ensure smooth working relations.

We stated that ANC members serving the organisation on a fulltime basis would not be allowed to undermine those deployed in government. We added that those deployed in government could not undermine the ANC. We had stated that should this happen, we would take very serious action indeed.

We urge comrades to prioritise comradeship in all dealings with one another. At the closing of the Polokwane conference last year we urged that we must find ways of disagreeing in a comradely manner as it is our tradition to do so.

We are not enemies, we are just comrades who may disagree on one or two issues or decisions of the movement on some occasions which is normal in an organisation of thinking people.

As you are aware some Ministers resigned in solidarity with former President Mbeki. We were disappointed by their decision but respect their personal choices. We remind them that the ANC is their home. We also issued a call early this year in the January 8 statement that the ANC belongs to all its members equally. Membership or leadership of the ANC must never be used to marginalise or exclude others.

No one is bigger than the ANC, and all ANC members are equal and are governed by the same organisational discipline. We have also noted the views of non-ANC members who feel the ANC has erred in some points that they feel strongly about, for example Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

As the ANC we respect the elders of our nation and do not take their views lightly. The ANC is available for an audience with Archbishop Tutu, and we have taken a decision to engage with him to clarify any issues he would to be dealt with. We are puzzled as to why he wants to deny himself the right to vote, which was earned through the blood, sweat and tears of our people, and which he himself campaign tirelessly for. We hope our engagement would take us a step forward constructively and in a dignified manner.

Compatriots, we remain very focused on the need to plan ahead to improve our excellent track record on service delivery. We have on other occasions come under fire when we say that there will be no dramatic changes in our policies in the new term.

The statement is based on the fact that policy is decided upon and is shaped by successive ANC policy and national elective conferences. There is no individual that will come with his own policies, however individuals deployed in certain stations are welcome to enhance the implementation of policies.

What informs all our policies is the Freedom Charter. On the economic front, the Charter guides us when it says that the People Shall Share in the Country's Wealth. This involves both ensuring the broadening of the ownership and management of the economy, as well as working to build an economy that creates decent work. In our January 8 Statement we highlighted that we had created conditions for the longest expansion of the South African economy in recorded history; with the rate of growth averaging over 4.5% every year since 2004.

This is further illustrated in the governments report in its "Towards a Fifteen Year Review", released last week, which acknowledges the positive economic growth that we have experienced.

The review states that following the recession of the 1990s, the economy had since 1994 registered 14 successive years of real GDP growth. We must continue to build on the successes that we have achieved over the past 14 years, by working even harder to ensure that jobs that are created are sustainable and that the pace of delivery that takes place has to be accelerated.

While acknowledging the advances that have been made in the first 14 years of ANC rule, we are well aware that we still have much to do to close the gap between rich and poor.

We know that we still face enormous challenges in meeting our objectives of building a better life for all. This indicates how huge the legacy of apartheid was.

The Review also acknowledges the contribution of government in alleviating poverty. The government's social security programme is the single most important driver of the decline in poverty. Beneficiary figures moved from 2,5 million in 1999 to just over 12 million in 2007.

The social grant system is the largest form of government support for the poor. The Child Support Grant now reaches 7,8 million beneficiaries compared to only 34 000 in 1999. However, while social security helps in dealing with poverty alleviation, it is not a long-term solution. Our view is that people must also be empowered to be employable and play a meaningful role in the economic activity of the country.

We have also done well to improve accesses to basic and essential services such as electricity, water and sanitation.

Any government, which has achieved what the ANC has delivered over this short space of time, should be proud of its record, and we are indeed proud of the work we have done.

It is within this context that the ANC is upbeat about the upcoming general elections, to be held next year. Nothing will deter us from going all out to say to the voters we believe we have tried out best, give us another overwhelming majority for us to improve our record even further!

Ladies and gentlemen, the ANC has always emphasised the leading role and the importance of working class within its membership.

It also has a bias towards the poor, from whom it draws the majority of its members. At the same time, it believes in the critical role of the business or middle class within its ranks, as part of the broad church that the movement has always been.

Black Business and black professionals remain an important sector for the African National Congress, in our endeavour to transform the economy, broaden ownership of the means of production, create wealth, create jobs and generally to build a strong and thriving economy.

The important role of business is reflected through the policies that we have undertaken especially in relation to the Broad Based Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) policies. We firmly believe in the continuation of the implementation of BBBEE policies, as long as they allow for the introduction of new players in the economy and also include the participation of women and the youth. We said as much in our Polokwane resolution when we indicated that we want:

"Broad-Based BEE aimed at broadening and deracialising the ownership and control of productive assets by black people, women and youth, promoting new black enterprises which are engaged in the production of goods and services, building the skills required by the economy and advancing employment equity in every area of work and economic endeavour". Compatriots let me on behalf of the ANC and on my own behalf, reiterate that we fully believe in the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers between the legislature, executive and the judiciary.

These are cornerstones of our democracy, which the ANC fought for, and will defend at all times. Let there be no confusion around this matter. We have never asked for a subservient judiciary. At the same time, we reserve our right to voice out our concerns in a manner that is fair and just. That should not be misconstrued as undermining democratic institutions. We have no reason to destroy or undermine what we sacrificed so much for.

Compatriots, we have gone through a situation that could have been turbulent in any other developing country. It is to the credit of South Africa that a democratic change in the leadership of government occurred in a smooth and hassle-free manner.

We will now focus our energies on assisting our government to improve service delivery even further.

Most importantly, we are going to the masses to ensure a massive turnout in the elections next year, and to mobilize our people to vote for the only organization that has an effective and tried and tested transformative programme for our country.

I thank you.

Issued by the African National Congress October 7 2008