DECISIVE action is required to transform the economic patterns of the present in order to realise South Africa's vision for the future, said President Jacob Zuma at the African National Congress’s 101st anniversary celebrations at Durban's Kings Park Stadium on Saturday.
The National Development Plan (NDP) — a long-term vision and strategic plan for the country — is seen as key to unlocking the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment in the country.
Urging citizens to unite behind the NDP, he said the plan set out various methods to tackle unemployment, poverty and inequality, with key programmes of the plan already being implemented.
Rating agency Fitch on Friday downgraded South Africa from BBB+ status to BBB, citing the country’s high levels of unemployment among the main points of concern.
The agency said, however, that the endorsement of the NDP in Mangaung offered some hope of more effective leadership and a greater focus on structural reforms.
State intervention in economy
Due to the social realities in South Africa, the ANC had opted for a mixed economy, where both the public and private sectors played a role in an integrated way, Mr Zuma said on Saturday.
The state must have the capacity to intervene in the economy to lead development, he said.
"Within this mixed economy we reaffirm the active and interventionist role of the state in ensuring economic development. It must be a state that has the capacity to intervene in the economy to lead development," said Mr Zuma.
He also said the economy continued to face skewed patterns of ownership, which were characterised by the marginalisation of "our people", with "monopoly capital" still an obstacle.
"Decisive action is required to change economic patterns and realise our vision," the president said.
Land reform a priority
With this year marking 100 years since the 1913 Land Act — which legalised land dispossession of the African people — the ANC has taken sharper focus in trying to speed up the slow process of land reform in South Africa, Mr Zuma said.
He said the Land Act marked the beginning of all problems facing South Africa today, such as landlessness, poverty and inequality.
Critics of South Africa's land reform programme have often cited food security as a key concern, amid indications that some of the agricultural land handed to the previously disadvantaged is no longer productive.
Lack of government support and proper training of land beneficiaries are seen to be derailing the success of the programme.
Mr Zuma said the ANC was unlikely to meet its land reform target — set at the party’s Polokwane conference in 2007 — of transferring 30% of white-owned agricultural land (which stood at 80-million hectares in 1994) by next year.
“We have directed government to urgently speed up the process through a variety of measures,” said Mr Zuma.
He said the implementation of these new measures would take into account the principles contained in the constitution in relation to land expropriation.
“We will replace the principle of ‘willing buyer, willing seller', which has not sufficiently addressed the problem, with the 'just and equitable' principle when expropriating land for land reform purposes,” said Mr Zuma.
The government will also reopen the lodgment date for claims and provide for the exception to the 1913 cut-off date to accommodate historical landmarks, heritage sites and descendants of the Khoi and San who lost their land long before 1913.
“These amendments to our laws will take effect this year,” said Mr Zuma, adding that there would also be special programmes to remember the injustices perpetrated under the 1913 Land Act.
“We appeal for co-operation between those needing land and those who need to release land, both assisted by the government, so that we can meet the targets we have set for redistribution and restitution,” Mr Zuma said.