ANC leaders are likely to tell members at the upcoming national general council that the party resolution on nationalising the Reserve Bank will have to take a back seat in the face of the dire economic conditions in the country.
In an post state of the nation address (Sona) interview with City Press last week, treasurer-general Paul Mashatile said that leaders would have to be “frank” about the challenges involved in implementing the “nationalisation” aspect of the resolution, which was taken at the party’s national elective conference in 2017.
ANC resolutions that President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke about in his fourth Sona on Thursday included the establishment of a state bank, a sovereign wealth fund and the ongoing land question.
The Reserve Bank did not make it into Ramaphosa’s speech.
Mashatile said the party had not abandoned the matter, it simply could not be a priority at this juncture.
“Our resolution said two things: We want it [the Reserve Bank] to be state-owned but its mandate will remain. We have not moved decisively on the issue of nationalisation because it is a process that involves a lot of dynamics.
“There are private shareholders involved and the state must weigh up when and how to buy them out.
“We need to ensure a composite approach in our budgeting and spending; meaning that we must prioritise. So, the question is: Do you at this stage want to take money from the fiscus to buy out some shareholders or do you want to use that money for education or infrastructure?
“It is a priority thing. It is not a deviation of the implementation of resolutions but a matter of what you prioritise,” Mashatile said.
“So, for us at the moment, the mandate of the Reserve Bank and the way it is playing its role is fine. We are fine with the policy environment in terms of the independent role of the Reserve Bank.
“The ownership issue will be resolved with time when we have a conducive situation to intervene,” Mashatile said.
ANC members, he said, would be “reasonable” when presented with the challenges of implementing some of the resolutions.
Another resolution that was proving difficult to implement was the land question. Mashatile said the matter was with Parliament and was out for comment from the public.
“The land question, and particularly amending the Constitution, is taking time. But there is progress. The deputy president is leading the programme and we are releasing land. So, in time, we will find a solution to that problem. We might go to the national general council without achieving these amendments, but we are committed to these processes and we want them to happen within the context of the rule of law and the bill of rights.”
Mashatile praised moves by the president to arrest the energy generation crisis by giving the green light to independent power producers (IPPs).
He said Eskom had been a monopoly for too long and this had created a number of weaknesses. “Now that we recognise the weaknesses of the monopoly, we are opening the way for more participants, especially renewables and, by allowing corporates to generate [energy], we are ensuring that all of us can help increase the supply of energy. We need it to grow the economy.”
Mashatile said IPPs would not mean the end of Eskom. Instead they would bring about much-needed competition which would force Eskom to reduce its prices.
On the growing debt crisis at Eskom, Mashatile urged that a proposal by trade union federation Cosatu should not be dismissed. Cosatu had proposed that Eskom’s debt be cut by using funds from state-development institutions and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which oversees mainly government worker pensions.
“I think the proposal by Cosatu should be examined; it is not new. Many of us have made this proposal in the past.”
He said Eskom already had a loan of more than R100 000 from PIC.
“So, instead of staying with the loan, convert it into equity. If you do that you reduce the debt burden on Eskom, making it more economically viable.
“Cosatu is not saying Eskom should start afresh and bring in more money,” he said. “That money is already there but it could be used better by being equity instead of a loan.
“Let us not run away. The money of the workers is not going to be thrown down the drain. The money of the workers is already there. How do we make sure that it is used better?”
The Sona was delayed for almost two hours on Thursday evening.
The delay began with an objection made by the EFF to the presence of former deputy president FW de Klerk.
The EFF said its members would not sit under the same roof as a man with blood on his hands.
Last week De Klerk said in an interview that he did not believe that apartheid was a crime against humanity.
Mashatile said that De Klerk’s presence at the event was a non-factor and the priority for the ANC-led government was nation building.
“We are not interested in De Klerk. For me what De Klerk does is neither here nor there. His time is gone; let us focus on the future. We want to build a South Africa for all who live in it, black and white.
“I spent most of my day on Tuesday talking to Afrikaners in this country. We came out of that meeting with everybody saying we care about the country and we want to get involved.
“On Tuesday I will meet Afrikaners in Pretoria to talk to them about how we build this country and take it forward together,” Mashatile said.
“I don’t want the country to waste time making De Klerk an issue. I don’t care whether he attends Sona or not. It is not an issue.”