/ 22 August 2023

Mantashe: Don’t rely on government to get you out of poverty

South Africa's Mineral Resources And Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe Looks On During A News Conference In Pretoria
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe

Ahead of next year’s crucial elections and after the government had to renew the Covid-19 social relief of distress grant, ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe has said society should not solely rely on the state to escape from poverty.  

South Africa is grappling with high levels of inequality and unemployment. The government’s social grant allocation stands at about R250 billion. 

Speaking on the sidelines of the ANC tripartite alliance meeting with Brazil’s President Lula da Silva, Mantashe said South Africans need to change their passive nature. 

“… society thinks it must be taken out of poverty instead of working with the government in taking itself out of poverty. I can tell you that if you don’t put your skin in the fire you don’t change the reality around yourself. It’s an issue we should start building on. We will only succeed if society participates in fighting poverty and other ills of society,” he said. 

Mantashe added that poverty and unemployment was an issue of importance to Brics member states Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which began their 15th summit in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

“So when we invite investment to our countries we focus on these issues,” he said, adding that Brics was the hope of 42% of the world’s population.  

Brics economies accounted for 21.3% of South Africa’s total trade with the world in 2022, with China leading at 67.6%, India at 26.5% and Brazil and Russia’s trade amounting to 4.2% and 1.7% respectively. 

The four countries accounted for 14.2% of South Africa’s merchandise exports while the European Union’s exports are estimated at 21.3%, with the United States at 8.8%.

Mantashe said party leaders drew important lessons from Brazil on how to manage coalitions. Lula is leading a coalition government with some of his former rivals who contested against him when he was first elected in 2006. 

“He gave us a very important lesson that what works there is the question of respecting each other. If you respect others and they don’t respect you that arrangement will not work,” Mantashe said. 

But Mantashe had strong views about the recently formed multi-party coalition, saying it included “apartheid” and “bantustan” parties with an “evil intent”. 

“As we go through this period I am convinced that the apartheid parties and bantustan parties trying to form a moonshot is not going to work. Moonshot is an American concept. It came from President [Richard] Nixon when there was a contest for going to the moon with the USSR. It’s not an original concept. It’s an old concept, recycled and it’s meant to weaken the ANC to reverse change and transformation. That is why we should be determined to fight because we can’t coexist with evil intentions.”

Seven opposition parties, including the Democratic Alliance, Inkatha Freedom Party, Freedom Front plus and ActionSA, came out of their pre-election coalition talks last week  with a concrete agreement on how they will share power if they manage to oust the ANC in the 2024 national and provincial elections.

The parties have committed to the Multi-party Charter for South Africa and a declaration locking them into the agreement. 

On Tuesday, South African Communist Party general secretary Solly Mapaila — whose party has historical ties with Lula — said it was ready to strengthen relations with its Brazilian counterparts. 

He said Lula had signalled to the ANC alliance that he was committed to continuing the struggle to end capitalism at an international level. 

“He committed to use the position he has in Brazil to continue with the struggle against imperialism,” Mapaila said, adding that Lula was also committed to eradicating poverty in his country.  

“It’s important to appreciate the manoeuvres of the imperialist forces particularly led by the American government that continues to destabilise countries. We have given him [Lula]  a challenge to rise to the occasion to deepen transformation so that it becomes irreversible and that is something we need to do here.”