Radical economic transformation: Zuma vs Ramaphosa

Johannesburg - “Radical economic transformation” has become the South African government’s new mantra as it advocates giving the nation’s black majority a bigger stake in the economy 23 years after the end of white-minority rule. 

What exactly it means is unclear. The phrase doesn’t appear in the National Development Plan, the government’s economic blueprint, and President Jacob Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa have painted different pictures of how it should be translated into policy.

Zuma is due to step down as leader of the ruling African National Congress in December and as president in 2019, and Ramaphosa is one of the front-runners to succeed him. Here’s what they’ve been saying.

President Jacob Zuma

The constitution should be changed to allow the state to seize land without having to pay for it to address skewed ownership patterns. There must be a fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy to ensure it benefits all South Africans, especially the poor, most of whom are African and female.

Black-controlled companies must benefit more from the government’s R500bn annual procurement budget. More companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange should be owned by black people. There should be more black industrialists and farmers.

Companies and the government should do more to hire and promote black staff. Black and white professionals doing the same job should be paid equally.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa

Radical economic transformation is a “national imperative” and means building a more equal society and drawing more people into the mainstream economy.

While the Constitution says the government should pay just and equitable compensation for land, a code should be drafted spelling out what this means and there should be a move away from paying market-related rates. Ownership patterns in the economy must change at a faster rate and in a more meaningful manner to enable the country’s people to share in its wealth.

There needs to be a massive skills development drive to prepare young South Africans for the workplace. Agricultural land must be redistributed on a far bigger scale and more speedily than is currently happening and the new owners must be equipped to farm it productively.

The government should use its infrastructure investment programme to build local manufacturing capacity and where appropriate, ensure contracts go to black-owned companies. More black people should become producers, financiers and business owners.

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