ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday set out what he deems key priorities for the ANC’s policy conference, saying it should emerge with a new path to economic growth.
“This is an opportunity to place our economy on a new trajectory that we [as tripartite alliance partners] must all come up with,” Ramaphosa said at the first day of the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) conference in Boksburg on Monday.
Seen as a front-runner in the ANC’s presidential race and has been officially endorsed by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), of which Nehawu is a member. He’s also been endorsed by the ANC in the Northern Cape.
On the other end of the spectrum, the ANC Youth League, Women’s League and Mkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) have endorsed former African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to be elected the next ANC president.
On Monday, Ramaphosa said the policy conference must have three strategic priorities:
“It must determine where policies need to be refined or changed, where implementation must be enhanced. It must establish a platform for rapid growth, massive job creation and fundamental economic transformation,” he told Nehawu delegates.
“Having recently entered a recession, the economy is still some distance from being able to create the jobs that our country needs on a significant scale. The recent investor downgrades … also make it more difficult to raise finance for development and make finance more expensive for ordinary people,” he added.
Radical economic transformation is expected to be one of the most fiercely debated policy discussions at the conference, scheduled to start on Friday in Soweto.
Supporters of Dlamini-Zuma have made it a focal point of their campaign to have her elected, arguing that control of the SA economy remains in predominantly white hands.
Ramaphosa called for the debate about the economic transformation to happen in the interests of the lives of all South Africans and “not just a privileged few and their families.”
He said that in order to grow the economy, South Africa needs to “loosen the grip” of companies that hold monopolies in local industries.
“As long as we have these huge monopolies, the stranglehold they have on our economy through price controls and price hikes will continue. We will begin to make our economy more resilient if we loosen that grip,” he said.
But he warned that the success of the policy discussions will be determined by the kind of leadership the ANC elects at its December conference.
“We need to inject quite a bit of radical speed and urgency, but in order to succeed, we need a clear leadership that will know its task… if you don’t have a committed leadership, all is lost,” he said.
The ANC deputy has been on the campaign trail for support among ANC branches and its alliance partners since scoring an endorsement from Cosatu to take over from president Jacob Zuma. He used his address at Nehawu to lament state capture:
“The emails are just spewing out everything. We need to address issues of state capture because it seems to demonstrate that there have been undue influence over appointments, even at the SOEs [state owned companies],” Ramaphosa said.
He added that Zuma should be commended for agreeing to set up the commission of inquiry, while the specialised crime fighting unit the Hawks, should be given the benefit of the doubt.
“Let them investigate and our people will be watching, our people will be listening and and our people will be observing everything,” Ramaphosa continued.
But the deputy president showed no signs of abating his criticism of corruption or the decay of the ANC.
“We must not keep quiet, we must not shut up, this is not a moment for going under the blankets, it’s a moment for speaking out and not being complacent. We dare not accept that the pace of change is fast enough,” he said.
“There have been times when we have been tempted by incumbency and we become arrogant and full of ourselves and we thought we know it all. We dare not allow whatever differences we may have among ourselves to blind our efforts to improve the lives of working class and the poor,” Ramaphosa added.