It’s time for radical economic change, says Zuma

In his opening address at the ruling party’s policy conference in Midrand on Tuesday, Zuma said the ANC would take the country “back to basics”, and chart an socioeconomic course that had not been feasible at the dawn of South Africa’s democracy.

“We are only two years away from the second decade of our democracy. Some serious questions need to be asked,” Zuma said. “In my experience you reach a point in a revolution where you decide if you will go straight or turn a corner.” 

In rhetoric reminiscent of expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, Zuma told the 3 500-strong delegation at the conference there would be significant changes ahead for South Africa, in particular with regard to economic ownership.

“Comrades, we are very proud of our achievements within the first 18 years of our democracy. Not many have achieved such in a short space of time. Noting these achievements, we need to do so something more to accelerate our delivery to the people,” he said.

Zuma said these changes will take place within the context of the so-called “second transition” document currently being debated within the party.

“We can’t sit and say it will happen one day, when God allows it. We are in government, we need to do something about it. We must go back to basics in shaping our economy. And take those difficult decisions we could not take in 1994,” he said.

Zuma said the state must play a bigger role in the economy and be able to “facilitate necessary changes” that will bring about economic freedom for all.

“We see economic ownership has not changed after almost 20 years into democracy. The economy is still largely owned by white males. The structure of the apartheid economy has largely remained and it  needs to change going forward,” he said.

Addressing the state’s role in resource ownership patterns, Zuma said government should play a more active role in the mineral sector.

“The mineral sectors debate over nationalisation needs to go deeper than simply to nationalise or not nationalise. All of the country’s minerals should benefit its people,” he said.

Zuma also said land reform had to be addressed urgently, and the current willing-buyer/willing-seller policy must be reviewed.

“That system distorts land prices and inhibits land reform. It slows down the delivery of land back to our people. This policy needs serious debate,” he said.

Zuma also exhorted the party to look inward, warning delegates that the ANC should be able to “cleanse” itself from “alien tendencies” that ranged from ill-discipline to actions undermining those in leadership positions.

“The ANC has taken action and will continue to take action against those who cross the line,” he said.

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