The new struggle is for a dynamic transparency

2012-01-07 13:57

When anyone turns 100 it’s time to celebrate.

When the “anyone” is an organisation that played the lead role in the liberation of a country, it gives even more cause for celebration.

Throughout 2012, we will do this in our beloved ANC, celebrating our many victories and particularly our 1994 election victory marking completion of the first phase of our struggle.

It is also time to look back and reflect deeply on the factors that brought us to where we are today, while paying our respects to those leaders, heroes and heroines who served as selfless instruments of liberation.

It is just as necessary, if not more important, to examine the principles and factors that propel us successfully into the future in the second phase of our liberation.

For me, the most important issues facing us are the economic liberation of all South Africans, and the provision of quality and timeous services to our citizens.

These would include a more evenly spread distribution of wealth as well as a more meaningful social security situation with the provision of sustainable health and educational services.

To reach these goals we need to consider the following:

The principle of partnership

When we won the election in 1994 we astonished the world by partnering with our erstwhile oppressors, the (New) National Party in forming a government of national unity.

Now we should form new partnerships between the government and labour, government and the private sector, and government and civil society.

Sharing the riches

The elephant in the room is the debate about nationalisation. The leadership of the ANC has stated repeatedly that nationalisation is not ANC policy.

Having said that, we need to ask the more relevant question, namely: What can government and the private sector do together to respond to the challenges from the point of view that the mining sector does not adequately represent the interests of all South Africans?

Somewhere in this (sometimes impractical) discourse there is a transaction, a deal, that will help us create the reality in which all constituencies and communities benefit from the perceived riches of the mining sector.

Corruption

We need to address corruption in a dramatic and direct fashion that discourages the public and the private sector from engaging in activities that siphon off huge amounts of taxpayers’ money.

One of our biggest challenges is to draw a line under the corrupt practices that we have seen over the years.

Decision-makers in government (political and administrative) could make more detailed disclosures on the interests they hold in entities that do business with government.

Such disclosures should be governed with appropriate legislation, and should exclude, rather than include, commercial activities by decision-makers in government.

The structures that police such legislation and regulations should also be strengthened and be open to public scrutiny and legislative oversight.

At the same time, business should come to the table and indicate how we can, as government (in partnership with business), better regulate those corrupt businessmen and women who benefit from dishonest practices and inflated prices at the cost of the honest taxpayer.

In short: nothing should be off the table in our quest to ensure that a much higher percentage of taxpayers’ money is used to the taxpayers’ benefit.

Further steps should and must be taken to ensure that tender processes in the public service are more transparent and administered without prejudice to any person or party.

I am in favour of a system/structure that can intervene in any tender process at any time as it unfolds (and not, as is mostly the case now, after the fact).

There is an important element to achieving a better life for all through being transparent and effective in government, and that is to illustrate, at all times, that we are building a new nation across bridges that divided us for centuries.

All South Africans should benefit from a dynamic government, although we know that the focus will be on the downtrodden and the vulnerable.

We cannot be as brutally selective as our predecessors were, and make government an instrument of social selection and discrimination. Our goal is to unite and strengthen.

This will require strong leadership across the political, labour and business spectrums.

We have to ensure that in this period of redressing the ills of the past, of levelling the playing field and transforming our country, that all leaders face the same direction.

Reinventing ourselves

We have much to show for our 100 years: not only did we form a successful party and alliance partnership, we also survived a legal and political onslaught to isolate our former oppressors globally – and then beat them in a fair election.

We have taken a number of excellent steps to prove that we are not only liberators, but also a party that can be trusted to perform its duty as the government of the day, an important part of which is to transparently use the money entrusted to us by honest citizens to improve their lives.

Our reinvention test lies in moving away from being brilliant and successful liberators to being regarded by the guardians of democracy (the voters) as brilliant and successful governors.

It is a task that liberators across the world have struggled with over decades and centuries. It is a task that will test our resolve to the limit.

We have had a brilliant journey.

Our challenge now is to be principled and fleet footed so that we can withstand the same scrutiny that we placed on our former oppressors.

We have been and will be given much praise globally for politically liberating South Africa.

Our new goal is to ensure that future historians also praise us for being an open, transparent and effective party in government.

» Phosa is treasurer-general of the ANC

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