Big ideas aren’t going to happen

2012-06-30 16:52

Zuma’s radical economic change policy dies quiet death at conference

Despite President Jacob Zuma’s heady promises of radical economic transformation, the ANC policy conference did not suggest any new economic policies that will speed up the road to prosperity for previously disadvantaged South ­Africans.

For ANC members this issue hinged on land reform and the state’s role in the economy, which was supposed to ensure more money goes to more people.

Zuma lamented on several occasions during the conference that white men still owned most of the equity on the ­Johannesburg Stock Exchange and said that should change.

But he didn’t really say how.

Instead, Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson sent frantic text ­messages during the conference to counter rumours about land expropriation without compensation being ­accepted as ANC policy.

Using exclamation marks, she rushed to assure white farmers their land would not be taken away.

And at the post-conference press conference she told reporters: “Only land which has been declared by a court to be illegally obtained will be expropriated.”

Government would therefore only ­expropriate land if it could pay for it.

“And the compensation will be agreed upon between the owner and the buyer,” she said.

She announced that an audit of ­state-owned land would be completed by the time of the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung.

On nationalisation, which would entail radical state intervention in the economy, the ANC also opted to remain vague.

“We discussed broadly whether we should retain nationalisation as an ­option and the greater consensus (was that) there should be greater state ­intervention,” said national executive committee member Enoch Godongwana, who was part of the ruling party’s ­economic transformation committee.

He told City Press the ANC was ­considering declaring some minerals strategic assets, which would mean “the state would take an interest in them”.

“Let’s make an example of uranium. Five years ago it wasn’t a strategic asset, but now with nuclear power it might be. So then the state would want to participate in those projects. That means the state-owned mining company might want to have first option on it,” he said.

But coal seems to be the first mineral that the state has its eye on, given that South Africa’s energy supply depends heavily on the availability of coal.

But Godongwana stressed these were just suggestions and were not cast in stone.

He also did not want to pronounce on the future of the youth wage subsidy, which would encourage companies to employ young people at reduced wages. The proposal was raised by Zuma in his 2010 State of the Nation address, but ­after heavy criticism from Cosatu and others it was put on the backburner.

It came up at the conference again, and was rejected by many, including Gauteng chairperson Paul Mashatile.

A jobseeker’s grant, which government first mooted in 2009, was dusted off and dressed up as an alternative to the youth wage subsidy.

The grant would be given to youngsters who pledged to undertake training opportunities to skill themselves and take up jobs afterwards.

After the conference Godongwana was only willing to say “a package of proposals is still on the table” but wouldn’t ­confirm whether the subsidy was part of the package.

Despite the lack of clear policies to ­radically change the way the South African economy works, Zuma warned darkly that the economic situation must change.

“Otherwise those who feel the pain might say ‘enough is enough’,” he said in his closing address to the conference on Friday.

» See also Business

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