Presentation by ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, to the ANC NEC Lekgotla held in Tshwane on 24-26 July 2015
Implementing Radical Economic and Social Transformation: Reality or Myth?
In the January 2015 Lekgotla we identified and confirmed the priorities for the term ending in 2019. This was prefaced with a prompt on every public representative and government department to move swiftly and with speed to implement programmes, as a means to address the needs of our people.
This Lekgotla should ask if we all understand the urgency of this call. This question can be answered only when we have a sense of how resources are allocated to the priority areas we identified. Equally important is to analyse the capacity of the state to execute, implement and ensure the quality of services delivered.
WHAT THIS LEKGOTLA SHOULD ACHIEVE
The Treasury has been asked to provide this Lekgotla with concrete information on the allocation of resource allocation to the various clusters. Our intention is to see how the budget is directed to the priority areas. This is not intended to be a motivation for one or the other Ministry.
This Lekgotla, as a result of this process of the Treasury, should be able distinguish between investment spending and consumption spending, with the purpose of quantifying progress in creating new economic capacity.
The commissions are expected to select clear priorities for the respective clusters so that the budgeting process can seek to put resources where they are urgently needed.
The Ministry of Public Service and Administration has been requested to provide an analysis of the capacity of the state. Injecting funds into ridding us of our challenges is futile when we do not have the required capacity in the state to implement programmes. Capacity should also be supported by a right attitude that is informed by the understanding of the direction taken by the ANC in government.
Among the questions where we wish to be provided with answers are:
Why is there still heavy reliance on consultants when the state is boasting of being the biggest contributor, by far, to the new jobs created since 2008? Are mere numbers and not the requisite skills?
Do Directors General view it as interference, or do they become nervous, when the ANC seeks knowledge and understand or any issue? This is critical for the government/party trust levels to be at the right level.
OUR PRIORITIES AND THEIR IMPLEMENTATION
The questions we have highlighted above, both in terms of our fiscal reality – against the backdrop of a difficult economic environment, and the capacity of our state; should assist our frank discussion on our present priorities and what corner we should turn to achieve a radical transformation of or society.
Economic Growth, Job Creation, Decent Work and Sustainable Livelihoods
We are slow in implementing this priority. In a country like ours where unemployment is high, job creation should be uppermost in whatever we do and say – internally and externally.
There is progress in the discussions about the minimum wage. A conclusion of this matter will go a long way in creating decent work. The contestation of space between higher earnings and the absorption of the majority of people into employment must be discussed and solutions should be found. It is satisfying for those employed to get higher wages and better living and working conditions. Nevertheless, when such a desirable environment is not complemented with an insistence on more people being employed and reversing the current trend of retrenchments, a perception that will develop is one where we will be considered to be concerned only with what satisfies us and those within our fold. Consequently, avoiding this sensitive debate will be at our own risk.
The economy is growing at a disappointingly low rate. The presentation by comrade Nene will illustrate the reality and provide us with figures.
The questions we must pose, particularly with regard to sectors intended for growth and employment, are:
- Are we not over-investing in the auto sector without seeing the multiplier effect of this investment in the form of both economic growth and employment creation?
- Which labour intensive sectors are being subsidised and capital incentivised?
- Is our investment in agriculture not limited in focus, with regard to small projects, and therefore yielding minimal impact? Are we, perhaps, not caught up in a false paradigm that assumes that food processing will create all the jobs in this important sector? These questions could equally apply to rural development and land reform.
- How fast are we allocating quotas to emerging companies in the fisheries industry as opposed to big companies having the monopoly? And what are we doing to stop our people handing over their allocation to big companies for immediate cash at the expense of developing new capacity?
- What is the contribution of the forestry to the GDP? Is this sector still monopolised by companies like Mondi and SAPPI with little evidence of any transformation in the sector?
Our articulation on these sectors that carry the biggest potential to growing the contribution to the overall growth and the creation of more jobs lacks specificity. We should apply our mind to the primary sector of food production as critical for the whole value chain. This means land reform should be linked to food production.
The question is whether current government programmes are effectively implemented with the necessary results being visible. Land reform has caught the imagination of society but policy clarity and certainty is necessary. The opening of land claims beyond the original 1913 cut-off date must be given real meaning.
Health and Education
It suffices to say that we have been making great improvement in these priority areas. This is despite a few challenges in some provinces, which the media tends to give a profile to. However, we should acknowledge that this is minimal given the commitment and implementation. We should probably raise the level of our communication on these advances, which will also add impetus of action and greater confidence among our people.
The main issues we should address ourselves to here should be:
- Further improving the quality of education and teacher training in our schools
- Developing an improved administration of NSFAS, with a focus on ensuring that the administrators are in the campuses and those universities provide – because some of these administrators do not share our worldview in this regard.
- Outsourcing in the health sector is of critical concern, which impacts on the delivery of capacity and the delivery of a qualitative healthcare overall. We should address this matter, without being restraint by arguments of creating a black middle class.
Corruption and Crime
South Africa, even in the context of the continent, is perceived to be the most corrupt country. This perception derives from the narrative, constantly repeated in the public, about corruption in the public sector and less so in the private sector. Our public representatives are caught in this narrative to a point that they cannot demystify it. At other times they are overly sensitive, even to false allegations, in their responses.
The perception and image of our country can only be changed by concrete programmes that lead to prosecution and conviction of those involved. We must be bold in dealing with corruption within our ranks, first, and in society more broadly.
In the Alliance summit we raised questions about corporate capture when business interests manipulate political and administrative process for their benefit at the expense of the people. Therefore,
How widespread is the practice of name-dropping when transgressions are committed in the public sector and, therefore, end up dragging the ANC in the mud when resources are being leaked? Are there parallel processes that strengthen the infrastructure for the corruption industry? Political appointments at the senior level of the state cannot be immune to this tendency. How much resources get leaked as a result of the seriousness of this growing tendency? The real question is whether corruption is systemic or not. It would be systemic if it is embedded in systems of the state.
But also important is whether the people we have in the state are of the calibre that they can steer clear of such manipulations and unethical behaviour. Therefore, our assessment should transcend the debate about the skills capacity and include ethical conduct and attitude.
Local government remains an area of priority. The improvement in the audit results in this sphere of government must be appreciated, with the Back to Basics programme remaining the main area of focus. More must be done to correct the weaknesses in local government as we are going to the 2016 local government elections. As we move closer to the elections, there must be a window period where the changes in leadership must not be allowed.
Infrastructure the Social Wage
Social infrastructure should be rolled out with the necessary speed. Human settlement is at the heart of mass resentment. However, it can be turned around to be the driver of improvement in the electoral fortunes for our movement.
The contribution of social grants in taking millions of our people out of abject poverty is a positive. We should resist the emerging emphasis on these programmes not being sustainable in the long run. Such a debate, while necessary, sometimes overlooks the reality of destitution among the majority of our people. It is in our ethos, and is also our responsibility to support the poor in society. It is essential to human solidarity. Nation-building and national cohesion must be factored into the discussions about social transformation.
The catalyst sectors identified seem to be in a crisis. We are not bold enough in dealing with the apparent crisis. For example:
Energy infrastructure seems to be over-shadowed by regular load-shedding. We don’t seem to have the necessary focus and provide necessary information publicly on progress underway regarding the infrastructure roll-out. We have been talking about three power stations under construction but non-committal to when society can expect to see them commissioned. Regular above inflation tariff increases in the midst of load shedding cannot instil confidence.
Transport infrastructure is a catalyst sector should focus on an efficient, accessible, affordable and reliable public transport system. We cannot talk of transport infrastructure as only strengthening a pit to port economic system.
ICT has been identified as a catalyst sector. Digital migration remains elusive and weighs heavily on South Africa’s leadership role in the continent. Although all indications are that we are technologically superior even within the SADC, there is a growing concern that we are being overtaken by even some of our smallest neighbours in our ICT and digital roll out. The matter has, largely, been left to government. ANC policy positions, on the other hand, have been overlooked if not ignored.
In water and sanitation there is greater visibility. However, the projects that we committed to must be implemented. Water and sanitation infrastructure is not only a social transformation matter but equally an economic transformation issue.
The January Lekgotla provided us with detailed reports on the progress made. We should still get the assessment of how far we have moved since then, and highlight challenges encountered in the implementation. This will help us understand why all our efforts do not yield the expected results, with regard to reducing unemployment and inequality and eradicating poverty.
Except for the impact made by social grants, we are making little progress in our fight against the triple challenges. This is serious as the patience of our people is running thin, particularly in the face of agitation for discontent.
The commissions are therefore expected to talk to the priorities and the budget process. They must identify issues that can be addressed urgently. The quality and pace of service delivered must be improved.
This presentation was first published in ANC NEC Lekgotla Bulletin of July 2015 in mid-August 2015. Click here to read the full Bulletin – PDF.