Three cabinet ministers were rolled out today to present South Africa’s “new growth path“, but after about 70 minutes of briefings, reporters were left wondering what it was all about.
The sectors mirror those identified for job-creating potential in all previous growth plans, the inability of government departments to work together was highlighted as it has been for at least 12 years and there was yet another promise to work with business and labour to agree on a strategy.
The SA Communist Party was quick to agree to talk and laid out its minimum demands: price control, reduced executive earnings and action to close the vast wage gap.
The Democratic Alliance wondered why the cabinet had rushed to brief when there clearly was no agreement after 18 months in government on where to take economic policy.
Here is the cabinet statement with separate notes from the DA and the SACP.
The ANC Youth League wants the Cosatu labour federation, which is one of the ANC’s two partners in the ruling alliance, to withdraw its allegation that some in the ruling party are self-serving political hyenas. The latest round started with a Youth League news conference to spin the outcome of the National General Council their way and was followed by a statement from Cosatu giving the context of general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi’s comments.
“We are still suffering from flu from Durban… and already Vavi insults leaders of the ANC as hyenas,” Malema told reporters at Luthuli House in Johannesburg.
The ANC’s national general council (NGC) in Durban last week came out strongly against ill-discipline and public spats.
“That spirit of the NGC was completely undermined by the general secretary of Cosatu,” Malema said.
He urged ANC leaders to take action.
“Delegates spoke in one voice that discipline must be applied consistently… we are awaiting that consistency from leadership.”
Wearing a polka dot shirt and a black suit Malema, accompanied by the ANCYL national working committee, briefed journalists on the Youth League’s take on the NGC.
Malema himself was subjected to disciplinary action earlier this year over public comments comparing President Jacob Zuma to his predecessor Thabo Mbeki.
ANCYL secretary general Vuyiswa Tulelo, flanking Malema at the briefing, said the league would press on with its bid to have disciplinary charges against Malema dropped. The ANCYL’s attempt to have the charges nullified at the NGC was shot down.
That was from the news conference, but here is the ANCYL’s NGC wrapup and Cosatu’s response to the news conference comments:
President Jacob Zuma sought to reassert his authority in the ANC at the party’s national general council in Durban.
He set the agenda with an opening address that was heavy on discipline and he reaffirmed that stance in his closing address.
Here are the two speeches that largely defined the meeting:
The ANC’s national general council adopted scores of resolutions at its national general council in Durban.
Some require further investigation before they are submitted to the party’s next policy conference in 2012. Others will simply propose measures to be considered by that conference.
The final decisions on all these matters will be taken at the next national conference later in 2012, when President Zuma and the national executive committee of the ANC will be up for replacement or reelection.
Here are the consolidated decisions of the NGC on issues including nationalisation:
The National General Council of the ANC has instructed parliament to mount a broad review of South Africa’s print media, including self regulation, transformation and ownership.
Some leaders are urging media to let the process run its course, saying there is no intention to set up a media appeals tribunal as proposed by President Jacob Zuma in his answers to parliamentary questions recently.
Others say the tribunal is a done deal and it is only the modalities that have to be decided.
Here is the text of the resolution adopted by the NGC in Durban.
By AMUKELANI CHAUKE and CHARLES MOLELE
Trade union federation Cosatu has blamed the ANC for 16 years of “failed” economic policies, and has demanded an overhaul of the South African economy.
Launching Cosatu’s alternative economic policy in Johannesburg, general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the labour federation would push for it to be considered at the ANC’s national general council next week.
He said: “Policies implemented since 1994 have not improved the lives of our people or yielded development. Instead, we have more unemployment, more poverty and more inequality.”
Vavi also called for:
The creation of a state-owned bank to cater for poor working-class South Africans;
The nationalisation of critical sectors like mining, metal and petrochemicals and the creation of a state company to oversee nationalisation;
A progressive tax system, with an introduction of a tax category for the “super-rich” and a solidarity tax that aims to cap the growth of earnings of the top 10% and to accelerate the earnings of the bottom 10%;
Strengthening of the rand against the US dollar and the abolition of inflation targeting; and
The creation of full-time jobs through the government’s Expanded Public Works’ Programme and a ban on labour broking.
Vavi said Cosatu would submit the document to the minister of economic development, Ebrahim Patel, in the hope that he would include it in his final growth path document.
“It is going to be our Koran and Bible and nobody will burn it,” Vavi said.
“We are not necessarily calling for the ‘wholesale or blanket’ nationalisation of all mines in SA. We don’t think that is a realistic proposal. It must be a strategic intervention by the state – not to own the entire construction industry, for example, that cannot be practical.
“We do want a state that can play a more direct role in all the areas we think are strategic on the economy.”
Vavi dismissed concerns that nationalisation would drive away foreign investors: “If everything we do had to be approved by investors then we would be stuck in the current situation for 100 years more.
“In Botswana there is a partnership by the state and the mining industry, a company from South Africa called De Beers which is in 50-50 partnership with the government, and that has not scared investment from Botswana.”
Econometrix chief economist Dr Azar Jamine said that Cosatu’s document addressed the inequalities faced by of the working class, but he was concerned by the “prescription” of relying on the state to “intervene and control everything”.
Jamine said the government did not have the capacity to run a new state-owned entity to oversee nationalised sectors.
He said the proposal for a state-owned bank had merit because banks were reluctant to lend money to the poor because of pay-back risks.
Jamine said Cosatu’s insistence that the government drop inflation targeting might address job losses and create jobs, but “it would just cause the inflation to go up, causing the same working class to suffer even more”.
Analyst Daniel Silke said Cosatu’s proposal on alternative economic policies had enough weight to be considered for discussion at the ANC’s national general council.
“All alliance partners are [in] competition against each other to present alternative economic proposals at next week’s NGC,” Silke said.
The ANC is expected to discuss persistently high unemployment and ways of dealing with the strength of the rand.
Senior ANC official Enoch Godongwana said that the party would review its economic policy.
“I know a number of people have raised the [tax on capital flows] issue . Our view is that we’ve got to look at the multiplicity of variables [to tackle the rand] in the economy.”
“It’s all very well to say we’ve got to reduce interest rates . It’s not an easy question.”
An ad hoc committee of MPs from the ANC, Democratic Alliance, IFP, Congress of the People, United Christian Democratic Party and the Independent Democrats says there are fundamental problems in municipal management that fuel community anger and undermine trust in the frontline of government.
“It is not only local government that needs a turn around, but the whole system of government needs a turn around,” the committee, which is heavily dominated by ANC members, says in a 70-page report to parliament.
The committee was set up a year ago to investigate the causes of the protests that erupted across the country. Its report was scheduled for debate in the National Assembly today.
The committee says the upheaval is a result of a “litany of challenges” ranging from poor financial control and a lack of capacity to the politicisation of municipal administration.
It proposes legislative changes and new regulations to clarify the accountability chain and ensure that officials are not able to subvert proper planning and processes. The buck should stop with elected executive committees and not civil servants, the report says.
In an apparent repudiation of the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment, the report says: “The administrative apparatus needs to be depoliticised in order to focus on enhanced service delivery in the municipal sphere.”
It proposes that regulations should be in place by June next year to ensure that senior positions are filled only by qualified people who are registered with appropriate professional institutions.
The committee says the procedures for municipalities to buy equipment and services needs to be tightened up to prevent corruption and ensure value for money.
At the same time, it says, the results of forensic investigations need to be made public and corrupt officials and politicians must face both civil and criminal charges.
The report proposes that housing waiting lists should be made public and allocations should be made strictly according to those lists and as soon as houses are available. Councillors should be excluded from the allocation process.
The committee urges that the major metros and the 21 most effective municipalities should be accredited to take over the provision of housing as soon as possible.
The committee urges parliament to force government departments to settle all overdue debts to municipalities by March.
The report focuses repeatedly on tender fraud and the practice of paying contractors for unfinished projects. It says contractors who don’t do what they are paid to do should be black listed and denied further work. Officials accused of corruption who resign to evade disciplinary processes also should be denied further government work.
In a rare move, the committee ends its report with a three-page list of actions and deadlines – none beyond the end of 2011.
The anniversary of Ruth First’s assassination gave everyone a chance to assume what she might have made of the state of South African politics today. Zwelinzima Vavi, the general secretary of the Cosatu labour federation, presumed to know that she would have opposed the ANC’s move to restrict media freedom; Blade Nzimande, the general secretary of the South African Communist Party, presumed to know that First, a former journalist, would have been in the frontline, fighting for a media appeals tribunal; and the ANC Youth League was outraged that Nzimande should think she would have been disappointed to see what had become of the ruling party’s youth wing – and presumed to know she would have endorsed its leadership – for which read Julius Malema.
Read them for yourself:
ANC veteran Pallo Jordan has weighed in on the media freedom debate with a challenge to the ruling party to defend its own heritage by protecting the right to a free and critical press.
In a heavyweight analysis of the issues at stake when the government weighs curbs on the media, Jordan, a former cabinet minister with a reputation as one of the ANC’s leading intellectuals, cautions against official regulation, but raps the media for being complacent about its own responsibilities, too.
“The value we place on a free, independent and outspoken press in democratic South Africa cannot be overstated. A free press can temper the appetite of any government to amass power at the expense of the citizen. A free press can be the vigilant watchdog of the public interest against the temptation to abuse power,” he says.
President Jacob Zuma has pinned his colours to the mast in the debate about media regulation in South Africa.
“I have observed and have been following the debate on the ANC proposal to have parliament investigate the desirability of establishing the Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT) with keen interest. I must state from the onset that I am astounded by the commentaries and opinion pieces written by some within the media fraternity and within the society broadly, in reaction to this important debate. Some suggest that the establishment of the MAT is meant to settle scores. Others still suggest that this is an attempt by the ruling party to control and bulldoze the media using the tactics of apartheid regime,” he said in a letter on the ANC Today website.
Zuma argues that freedom of expression should not be elevated above other constitutionally guaranteed rights, such as the rights to privacy and to dignity.
But there is a subtext to his letter which seems to suggest that the media should be reflecting the ANC’s agenda. This seems to be the nub of his argument:
“Our contention is that the ANC does not, and will never pose any threat to media freedom. The media must seriously conduct an introspection and open a constructive debate about the role of this institution in a post-apartheid South Africa. Is the media a mirror of South African society? Is it in touch with what the majority of South Africans feel and think? Does this institution actually know and understand South Africans? Why was it surprised by the explosion of national pride during the Soccer World Cup tournament? Why did South Africans decide to rise above the daily diet of negativity and defeatism that they are fed daily in the media?
“What is the impact of ownership on content and staffing? What is the ideological outlook of the media? Is there an alienation with the post-apartheid democratic order and thinking? Are we on the same wavelength regarding where South Africa should go politically, socially and economically? Does the media understand this well enough to articulate it to South Africans, to enable to accurately judge government action and performance?”
The ANC is certainly keeping the pressure up as Zuma, wearing his president-of-the-country hat, prepares for a summit with newspaper owners and editors sometime around the end of August.
Jeremy Cronin, deputy general secretary of the SACP, has also defended the idea of a media tribunal on Umsebenzi Online .
Here is Zuma’s full letter: