Clem Sunter

10 New Year’s resolutions for the ANC

2014-12-31 11:40

Clem Sunter

Here is my list of 2015 resolutions that I would recommend for the ANC:

Clean up corruption and excessive expenditure: Corruption has become such an enormous issue that it is tainting the nation’s entire image in the world at large. The first step is to come clean on Nkandla as the public simply do not believe that only a few junior employees or contractors of the state were involved in wrongdoing. The critical question which has not been properly answered is how far up the chain of command was there knowledge of the cost and magnitude of the project. Nobody disputes the idea of providing our leader with secure accommodation but the final figure of expenditure is truly mind-blowing. The Deputy President has set a good example by paying for his own Christmas holidays in Cuba. On a broader front, the resolution should be one of no more awarding of dodgy contracts, no more suspensions of board members without any consequences for proven misdemeanours, no more lies about degrees and qualifications and no more fiddling with the law to stay above it. Some people feel so strongly about this resolution that they think I should repeat it ten times and not mention anything else.

Don’t be too heavy-handed in Parliament: As night follows day, the EFF will be chanting again about paying back the money at the opening of Parliament in the New Year when the President gives his speech. The one thing we can be really proud of is the political democracy which we now possess. Parliament is more important than any individual political party as it represents the choice of the people. Any action which brings this institution into disrepute as a result of partisan behaviour or, worse still, violence strikes at the heart of what the struggle was all about. Robust debate among rival parties is the norm in countries where democracies exist.

Promote the good school principals and teachers and fire the bad ones: The number one attribute of a winning nation is the excellence of its education system. While we are the thirty-third largest economy in the world, we come virtually last in any survey measuring the quality of maths and science education among countries aspiring to be members of the Premier League. Even Zimbabwe, with its limited financial resources, has a better public education system than ours because the teaching profession from the top to the bottom there is held accountable for their performance in the classroom. Think of all the talented and entrepreneurial Zimbabweans we are lucky to have here. The long-term economic future of any nation rests on its ability to educate its young citizens and to give them the freedom to fulfil their potential afterwards. Singapore is number three in the Premier League of nations because teachers are regarded as the most precious resource in its society and are rewarded accordingly.

Make small business start-ups the centre of the universe: We now have a ministry dedicated to small business development but there is still a feeling among influential ANC members that the profit motive is somehow evil. They meanwhile get a monthly salary out of taxpayers’ money whereas an entrepreneur, a family business or a collective have to make a profit to survive. Losses do not put food on the table. Instead of hand-outs, we should be giving hand-ups in order to create an economic democracy to go with our political democracy. A constructive partnership between the government and private sector is essential to achieving this objective as well as a tough stance against any trade union standing in the way of creating a new generation of industrialists and entrepreneurs.

Make appointments based on merit and experience, and never again select individuals solely because they have the right connections and political sympathies: The kind of chaos and infighting we have seen in the senior management ranks of some government departments and state businesses can no longer be tolerated. The remarkable thing is that the operational management and staff of these departments and companies have kept the show on the road, albeit at lower levels of morale, efficiency and productivity. When you are selecting the next leader of an organisation, you must particularly weigh up the knowledge which he or she has accumulated in the game for which the selection is taking place. You would no more make Hashim Amla captain of Bafana Bafana than you would make Wayne Rooney captain of the English cricket team. Both have leadership qualities but only in the games they normally play. The same principle applies to CEOs and department heads in any public sector game you care to mention. They must have the knowledge beforehand which only comes with incremental experience of that game.

Create greater policy certainty for foreign investors: Right now we are two notches above junk bond status according to the international ratings agencies. If we are ever demoted to junk status, there are plenty of funds overseas which will be forced to sell our bonds as they are not permitted to hold junk paper. This would make the raising of capital by government to finance new infrastructure spending and to fund the budget deficit much more difficult as well as increase the interest rates they would have to pay. We live in an interdependent world where you are rewarded or punished according to whether you abide by or flout the international rules of the game. The rest of Africa has now improved its status as an investment destination and we can no longer take it for granted that we are the prime attraction on the continent for foreign money. We have to earn the respect of being an open and stable society which lies within the normal boundaries of risk.

Seek a permanent solution to the issue of ownership of land in this country which does not harm food security: The Minister concerned has put a proposal of land reform on the table and it now requires an earnest engagement between all the parties involved, including the farming community itself, to negotiate a lasting and practical settlement. The natural tendency if affected by an issue as thorny as this is to behave like an ostrich and to put your head in the sand. But as events elsewhere have shown this option can be the most dangerous of all to exercise. Equally, the government has to be patient, sensitive and creative enough to keep the skilled players on the pitch- those farmers passionate enough to play within the limits of our sensitive environment and still make money out of a difficult game. Above all, the ANC must avoid populist rhetoric which will ring the alarm bells and shut off new investment in technologies that are transforming the farming game world-wide. On the plus side, we have a very effective food supply chain in this country at the moment; and one of the great things about South Africans is that they collectively tackle extraordinarily tough problems if they have the mind to do so.

Devise a coherent strategy on how the country can stabilise/reduce its carbon emissions and submit it to the summit in Paris in December, 2015: Global weather patterns are becoming meaner all the time as they lurch from one extreme to the other with a greater degree of frequency and intensity. They are causing growing losses to property and life. Just ask Australia which is experiencing record temperatures that cause greater evaporation of its most precious resource- water. The flags on climate change are going up everywhere in the world and next December’s summit may be a turning-point in its history. For the first time, the issue may be taken seriously. In a nutshell, we have to change the way we satisfy our long-term energy requirements in order to grow our economy; and we have to change our living patterns as well by putting much more emphasis on how to minimise the carbon footprint, from cradle to grave, of the products and services we consume. It is a tricky balance as we all know but the reality is that we have one planet which must remain inhabitable for future generations of the human species.

Do not allow the future availability of water to go through the same experience as electricity: The blackouts have taught us a lesson on long-term planning for adequate supplies of key resources for our society to function properly. Water was dealt with brilliantly in the last century but we are now due for an upgrade which will cost masses of money and will take years to implement. The process has to start now as the projects to make the next leap forward have long lead times.

Implement the Marikana Commission findings so that this tragedy never happens again: The one event that has really stained the reputation of the new South Africa has been the killing of the striking mineworkers at Marikana. Police are supposed to use minimum force and have a step-up system of strategy and tactics to contain whatever threat exists. This clearly did not happen at Marikana for whatever reasons that finally come to light in the report. Like Sharpeville, the Marikana tragedy must never be forgotten or repeated. This demands a new code of conduct and strict adherence to it together with penalties for any violation.

All the best to readers for 2015.

 Send your comments to Clem


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