South Africa’s governing African National Congress says its priorities for the new year are speeding up growth, creating more jobs, decent work and sustainable livelihoods.
That’s the word from the party’s highest permanent decision-making body, the National Executive Committee. Defence and the military were not mentioned.
“To attain the objectives of creating more jobs, decent work opportunities and sustainable livelihoods, it is important that we clearly set out an inclusive economic growth path based on a comprehensive industrial strategy,” the party said at the weekend in its annual “January 8” statement.
“This is a pressing strategic task vital to the national economy, especially in the context of the on-going global economic crisis,” the ANC, Africa’s oldest political party, and in power in South Africa since 1994, added.
“The ANC is also very aware of the impact that the global economic crisis has on the pace and sequencing of delivery. We have taken, and will continue to take, bold steps to mitigate the impact of this crisis.”
The “January 8” statement marks the party’s founding on January 8, 1912 and is normally released during festivities on or near that date to mark the anti-apartheid liberation movement’s birthday. This year’s celebration was held over the weekend in Kimberley, capital of the Northern Cape province.
Analysts generally see the release as a precursor to the national president’s State of the Nation address, at the opening of Parliament, that sets out government’s annual priorities. President Jacob Zuma is due to make that speech early next month.
“We are committed to the implementation of the Framework for South Africa’s Response to the International Economic Crisis, which was developed and agreed to at NEDLAC [National Economic Development and Labour Council] in February 2009 and sets out principles and programmes to tackle the crisis.
“The Framework has strong principles that seek to protect the poor, the vulnerable, the unemployed and low-income workers. It aims to strengthen the country’s capacity to grow decent work in the future, to maintain high levels of investment and to intervene in a timely, tailored and targeted manner,” the party says.
Among the programmes that “should be intensified”, the party says, are:
ensuring expenditure of the budgeted R787-billion on improving public infrastructure;
tailoring fiscal and monetary measures in a manner that compliments trade and industrial policies and contribute to the achievement of our overall development objectives;
preserving as many jobs as possible, through an extended training period as an alternative to retrenchment; and
ensuring that the funds meant to assist companies in distress flow to deserving enterprises.
“There are some early indications that we may be recovering from the worst of the crisis. But it should be borne in mind that this recovery may be slow and perhaps even temporary. As such, we must remain vigilant. It should also be expected that the creation of new jobs on a massive scale will lag behind the economic recovery,” the statement adds.
“One opportunity provided by the crisis is that it has opened up space for a fundamental transformation of the economy, globally and domestically. There is near-universal recognition that an unfettered, free market system does not have the capacity to address the serious social and economic inequalities in the world.
“Global financial markets must be regulated and governments must play an active role in the economy. The ANC is determined to use this space strategically to put in place a more inclusive economic growth path that addresses the major structural flaws in our economy.
“Apartheid deprived our people of ownership and control of wealth in such a manner that our communities were deliberately impoverished and turned into reservoirs of cheap labour. Thus, fundamental to the transformation of the economy, for the ANC, is the need to eradicate apartheid production relations and to bring about a more equitable ownership and distribution of wealth and income.
“The most pressing challenges we face are that of unemployment, poverty and inequality. To address these challenges and underdevelopment, we must simultaneously accelerate economic growth and transform the quality of that growth.
“We have placed the creation of decent work at the centre of our efforts to address poverty and inequality, and all government policies and programmes are meant to speak to this goal. Within the context of scarce resources, heavily affected by the world economic crisis, we have put in place programmes to absorb the unemployed through the use of labour intensive programmes linked to infrastructure expansion and meeting social needs.
“We are confident that the progress made in the past nine months in implementing the expanded public works programme will lay the foundation for the attainment of our target to create 4-million work opportunities by 2014.
“South Africa has ongoing problems in the energy sector that requires comprehensive solutions. The problems concerning energy are broader than the huge tariff increases we have to bear. There are issues of our energy mix, environmental sustainability, distribution mechanisms, surcharges by local municipalities and the role of private producers to address. We would be failing our people if we do not address these urgently,” the statement added.
“The ANC also recognises that poor communities will bear the brunt of the costs resulting from climate change in inverse proportion to their contribution to the phenomenon of global warming. In all this, scientific research has shown that Africa is likely to be one of the most seriously affected parts of the world.
“It is predicted that the impacts of climate change for South Africa will include a reduction in rainfall and increase in droughts in the western parts of the country, which will increase water scarcity and have devastating effects on agricultural production and the survival of our biodiversity.
“It will also result in wetter and hotter temperatures in the eastern side of the country, leading to the spread of diseases like malaria and the rise of sea levels. Increasingly destructive weather events will threaten our coastal cities, which could lead to loss of incomes, jobs and investment, including through the devastation of our fishing industry.
“The ANC will strengthen its partnership with like-minded organisations domestically and across the world to attain a globally shared vision that acknowledges that solving the climate change problem must take place in the context of:
developmental priorities of food security, poverty eradication, energy security and promoting development.
equality and differentiated responsibility for the past but common responsibility for the future.
“Together with our counterparts in the developing world we have contributed to progress made at the Climate Change Summit held in Copenhagen. The accord reached at the Summit commits countries to work towards limiting the global temperatures below two degree Celsius, including mid-term mitigation targets and actions by developed and developing countries; reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation; and support for the most vulnerable to cope with climate change.
“In this respect the accord, even though it is not ambitious enough, it is an important step in the right direction in so far as it commits countries to respond to climate change. As South Africans we will work hard with our international counterparts to ensure that the treaty is legally binding on all parties this year.
“Every South African should also make sure that they contribute to protecting our planet by implementing ‘green’ living to the best of their ability. Conserve as much electricity as possible, walk more, use fewer plastic products and re-use and recycle as much as possible.
Nuts-and-bolts issues include speeding up rural development as well as urban and rural land redistribution; improving the quality of education skills development and healthcare; creating a comprehensive social security system as part of a programme of social transformation; and combating crime and corruption.
“There is an urgent need to overhaul the criminal justice system to ensure that the levels of crime are drastically reduced,” the party says.
“We spoke, in our [2009 election] manifesto, of establishing a new modernised, efficient and transformed criminal justice system (CJS) to develop the capacity for fighting and drastically reducing crime levels in real terms.
“There are several concrete measures being undertaken, such as improving the performance of our courts with regards to trials and proceedings, like the granting of bail. Work is also being done to improve conditions in specialist careers like the SAPS investigations, forensic laboratories, criminal record centres, legal aid boards and social work.
“The South African Police Service (SAPS) is currently embarking on a programme to increase its personnel over the next three years and put special emphasis on visible policing, detective and crime intelligence personnel. The number of detectives had increased by 19% by the end of 2009.
“In terms of fighting fraud and corruption, the SAPS has established the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigations, popularly known as ‘The Hawks’. This unit will enhance our capacity to prevent, combat and investigate national priority crimes.
The government will not, by itself, address the crime problem. ANC members, and indeed all South Africans, are expected to form part of efforts to address crime and corruption, by participating in Community Policing Forums and more directly by reporting crime and corruption, where they encounter these. We must also work with our police service in the apprehension of criminals and not harbour them.”
Pic: Workers on a farm near Eikenhof, just south of Johannesburg.