Zuma calls for black business to make radical economic reforms

2015-03-25 15:16

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The black business community should stop lamenting about a lack of government services because only those from Nkandla have a right to do so, President Jacob Zuma has said.

Addressing about 700 delegates at the Black Industrialists Indaba in Midrand this morning, Zuma said residents of Nkandla, his hometown, are the only ones who should be lamenting when government services are inefficient.

Speaking in a tongue-in-cheek manner, Zuma urged delegates to come up with concrete recommendations on how the government can alter the skewed patterns of economic ownership in the country and avoid lamenting about what the government was not doing right.

Zuma also joked that Nkandla residents have a right to lament because Parliament even stops making laws when you build a house there.

“It [Indaba] must not be just another gathering. Contributions should not, by and large, be lamentations. You should not lament. At least we, somewhere in Nkandla, can lament. We are in a deep rural area. If you build a house people call it a mansion, because if you are a Nkandla man you are not supposed to build a house. If you build something different ... [they will ask] where does he get the money?” said Zuma, eliciting laughter from the delegates.

“If you build a house in Nkandla, then it becomes a subject of discussion; even Parliament stops making laws, they discuss Nkandla all the time,” said Zuma, later urging delegates to make the indaba a historical milestone in the creation of South Africa’s black industrialists.

His comments come as Police Minister Nathi Nhleko was due to issue a report that was expected to clarify whether Zuma was liable for any portion of the R246 million spent by the government at his private Nkandla residence.

Zuma said the government would tackle economic transformation in a radical manner because the current economic landscape was shaped by a radical apartheid system.

The strength of the black industrialist programme, said Zuma, needed to take into consideration the participation of women, youth and people with disabilities.

He criticised those who questioned his comments recently, when he said the country’s economy was in the hands of minority white South Africans with only 3% of companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange owned by black people, and asked why they would defend the “indefensible” regarding the skewed economic landscape.

The outcome of the Black Industrialist Indaba is expected to inform the government’s economic transformation framework and Zuma said a mixed economy, where the state, private capital, cooperatives and other forms of social ownership complemented each other to eliminate poverty and foster economic growth.

The Indaba, hosted by the department of trade and industry, will also identify 100 black-owned companies to help them get funding – as much as R1 billion – to become industrialists.

Zuma said he was disheartened by the low levels of black ownership of the country’s industries, and singled out manufacturing as the least transformed sector of them all.

Transformation policies that would be used by government should be more “radical” and designed to reverse South Africa’s apartheid past, said Zuma.

“That’s why in our policies we have to be unique in order to deal with a unique past and a unique present. Let us talk about our own solutions so that we do not utilise solutions that are in fact not the solutions for our own conditions. Even those who experienced colonialism, theirs was direct colonialism. Ours was a colonialism of a special type; it therefore needs solutions of a special type” said Zuma.

He said political liberation without economic liberation would never be enough in the South African context because many sectors of the economy were untransformed.

Zuma said that when he fought against the apartheid state during the struggle he had understood that political liberation would be followed by economic liberation, but the latter was more elusive than first thought.

“When we say radical transformation of the economy, it’s not just a slogan. It’s a reality because poverty and inequality was brought by radical deprivation of the means of the economy. It was very radical and we’ve got to be radical to reverse it because if we don’t do so you are going to remain where you are forever as if where you are happened as a result of the decree of God, but it is not so,” said Zuma.

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