No straight answer from Ramaphosa on prescribed assets

President Cyril Ramaphosa (Jeffrey Abrahams/GALLO)
President Cyril Ramaphosa (Jeffrey Abrahams/GALLO)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has not said outright whether he supports the prescription of assets – but he has said government will pursue policies in the interests of South Africans, and pension fund holders.

The president was answering questions before the National Assembly on Thursday afternoon. DA leader Mmusi Maimane asked whether Ramaphosa supports the prescription of assets - a policy which involves local pension and asset funds being invested in state-owned companies or infrastructure for development purposes. The ANC, in its 2019 manifesto, said it would investigate the prescription of assets.

Before answering the question, Ramaphosa took a dig at Maimane for sounding like a "broken record", regurgitating the issue at every questioning session in Parliament. Ramaphosa called it "regrettable".

"The issue of prescribed assets has been discussed over and over again. In the end we will pursue policies that advance the interest of our people here in South Africa and also advances the interest of pension fund holders," Ramaphosa said.

He invited Maimane to join him at the World Economic Forum for Africa to be held in two weeks, in order to hear what the investing world says about the country's economic policies.

"Our policies are clear. We are pursuing a strategy of economic reforms and it is seen as quite positive by the investing world," he said.

However, the opposition benches were not convinced, and DA members started chanting that the president must give a straightforward "yes" or "no" on whether he supports the prescription of assets.

Speaker Thandi Modise called the members to order, saying Ramaphosa's had answered the question.

Economic Freedom Fighters MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi then stood up and implored the president to answer the question, as there was a need to give direction to the country.

To this Ramaphosa responded that the issue of prescribed assets had been raised a number of times. He said it was important to consider the resources available to the country to generate growth in a purposeful manner.

These resources include public servants' money – held by the Government Employee Pension Fund, which is invested by the Public investment Corporation for development purposes.

"In a number of cases it has worked well," he said.

Ramaphosa added that a discussion is needed with the pension fund industry, as the country faces a situation where financial resources are depleted and development needs are enormous. Pension funds can be used for development purposes, Ramaphosa said. "Quite often pension funds make good returns out of infrastructure developments," he said.

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