Some Thoughts on the ANC’s Policy Conference
The ANC recently finished its annual policy conference in Johannesburg as a prelude to the elective conference in Mangaung this December. The main point of discussion at the policy conference was the second transition document that was presented by Jacob Zuma and has been debated by the internal ANC policy committees. The document has elicited a variety of responses from the media and various stakeholders as the document seeks to address two primary issues yet to be addressed in the South African polity, land and mine ownership. The two issues are very emotive issues in South African politics as it puts into the spotlight the economic legacy of apartheid. While the issue of mining ownership can be negotiated with multinational corporations, the issue of land ownership strikes at the heart of Afrikaner identity. The issue of land ownership is more complicated in South Africa than Zimbabwe as many of the farms are owned and linked multinational corporations. It seems that the main question for the ANC is how to achieve substantial economic reform and learn the lessons of Zimbabwe.
In his address to the conference Jacob Zuma stated in reference to the Second Transition document:
On the economy, we need to go back to the basics and take the difficult decisions that we could not take in 1994, with regards to the economy. As we stated in Polokwane, our most effective weapon in the campaign against poverty is the creation of decent work, and creating work requires faster economic growth.
To achieve this, we must create a thriving mixed economy, where the state, private capital, cooperative and other forms of social ownership complement each other in an integrated way to eliminate poverty and foster shared economic growth. To achieve inclusive and labour absorbing growth, the state must play an active role in the economy, driving development especially in neglected areas. To change the structure, the ANC must democratise and de-racialise the ownership and control of the economy by empowering Africans and the working class in particular to play a leading role.
Despite the liberalisation of the economy, the structure of the apartheid economy has remained largely intact, and has not allowed for higher or inclusive growth. Our broad-based black economic empowerment strategy and employment equity policies have been successful but have not yielded sufficient results.
Our 2009 election Manifesto put South Africa`s black middle class at 2.6 million in 2007 due to empowerment policies, which is impressive. However, the wealth is largely obtained through holding shares in existing companies instead of primary production.
Our economic transformation efforts should focus on achieving a rising per-capita income, full employment, and our targets must demonstrate real and visible progress in reducing wealth and income inequalities. Economic transformation must also entail promoting regional development in Southern Africa, thereby fostering the progressive integration of the region.
The ANC would like to move the policy debates forward in South Africa and the main issue will be land reform. The ANC wants to implement radical policies but it also needs to be smart and effective. Prof.Brian Meeks from the University of the West Indies in examining Jamaica’s economic future within the context of neo-liberalism examined the issue of land ownership and reform as a pretext for economic development. Meeks argued that land ownership opens up the opportunity for rural citizens to access credit and as a result develop business ventures. In essence the ANC is right to focus on the issue of land reform in the rural area as means of providing economic opportunity and empowerment. Meeks argues that the Jamaican state itself can take the lead and redistribute land that it already owns. The single biggest land owner in Jamaica is the state itself, and most of the land is not being utilised for any form of production. Meeks argues that in order to avoid any political tension over the issue of private property the state itself can be the catalyst by redistributing the land that it already owns.
The ANC is right in making the assessment that the willing buyer-willing seller model has not worked but it has to avoid land grabs that jeopardised Zimbabwe. The international and political consequences of the land grab in Zimbabwe destroyed its currency and the political irony is that Zimbabwe’s economy is now dependent on mining and tourism. It is the view of this writer that South Africa will not enact a land grab similar in scope to Zimbabwe. South Africa will have to play a delicate balancing act and devise a rural land policy that mixes private capital and social ownership.
The ANC’s policy conference did not produce any conclusive results as the various structures continue to debate the merits of each policy proposal. While Zuma speaks of the need for radical policies nothing will get implemented in the near future. In strictly political terms Zuma needs to reclaim his populist political image ahead of the ANC elective conference in December and nothing does this better than subtle reminders of the 1994 political compromise and general references to the need for radical reform of the South African economy.