President Jacob Zuma. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
GETTING TO THE POINT: President Jacob Zuma and the ANC have crucial issues to discuss at the party's Mangaung conference. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

Leaders in society put forward issues for consideration as African National Congress delegates prepare for the party’s 53rd national elective conference in Mangaung. Although this is an ANC conference, the decisions reached will affect all South Africans. We hope conference delegates will consider this input in their deliberations.

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Dear Mangaung delegate,

“ONGAPHANSI, ongaphezulu, zindala zombili. Uyadel’ umakhasana oyozibona zibulalana” (It’s the war of attrition between equals; it’s the winner takes all). These words were uttered by the Zulu king Mpande when he was told his two sons, Cetshwayo and Mbuyazi, were fighting each other to the finish at the battle of Indondakusuka, or the Battle of the Children, near the Tugela River in December 1856. Arguably, the battle between Cetshwayo’s Usuthu army and Mbuyazi’s Izigq oza, which Cetshwayo won, marked the beginning of the fall of the Zulu empire, despite the historic victory against the British at Isandlwana a few years later.

The 52nd national conference of the African National Congress (ANC) in Polokwane was the modern equivalent of the Battle of the Children, and its outcomes were disastrous for the hegemony of the ANC in the short term.

The delegates to the 53rd national conference in Mangaung cannot and must not allow it to become the gathering of winners and losers, because the resultant costs to the cohesion of the ANC and governance of South Africa may be too ghastly to contemplate.

As such, each and every delegate to Mangaung carries a huge responsibility on their shoulders to make sure that the conference is remembered for the right reasons. First and foremost, a leadership collective should emerge that balances the interests of the key components of the ANC — the broad church, the parliament of the people. The rich and poor, organised labour and the unemployed, business, traditional leadership, women and youth must all have confidence in the collective to emerge in Mangaung.

Most importantly, the delegates should debate and adopt sound policies that will inform and guide the ANC government’s approach to social, economic and political transformation.

By and large, the ANC already has sound social policies, such as education, healthcare, housing, safety and security. For example, on the security of South Africans, and on the rule of law, there can be little doubt that South Africans feel a lot safer today than they did five years ago. We are steadily pushing back the frontiers of lawlessness. On healthcare, the post-Polokwane leadership of the ANC has transformed South Africa from a pariah state, in terms of its responses to the scourge of HIV/AIDS, to a state that oversees the best HIV/AIDS treatment roll-out programme. The cost of AIDS drugs has been reduced dramatically and the life expectancy of ordinary South Africans has improved markedly. Yet, when shortcomings on implementation manifest themselves, they tend to expose the ANC as an organisation that has scant regard for the interests of the poor.

The failure to distribute textbooks to pupils in Limpopo and elsewhere is a case in point. Often the ANC has inappropriately qualified people (not necessarily in terms of educational qualifications) deployed to oversee and drive the implementation of its otherwise very sound policies. Therefore the 53rd national conference should address itself more to the question of implementation of the social policies of the ANC.

Yet, on economic policies, the ANC has tough choices to make. There should be no room for ambiguity because, as the cliche goes — business does not like uncertainty. The allocation of capital for investment and capacity expansion in the private sector will always be frightened by legislative policy uncertainty. In this regard, the ANC, as the ruling party, cannot afford to be synonymous with economic policy uncertainty and to be remembered as the party that frustrated (even if by default) the private sector’s appetite for investment.

The rebuilding of South Africa’s industrial capacity and the objective creation, nurturing and promotion of black industrialists are both pivotal to the sustainable growth, deracialisation and transformation of the South African economy. The New Growth Path and its industrial component — the Industrial Policy Action Plan on the one hand, and the National Development Plan on the other — are equally magnificent policy initiatives and blueprints, whose complementary characteristics must be nurtured rather than be set against each other as competing and diametrically opposing thoughts. There lies the potential for unleashing South Africa’s potential.

Sadly, 18 years into our democracy, the economy of South Africa still resembles its historical colonial and apartheid patterns, with whites owning and controlling the commanding heights and blacks controlling the factory floors, with capital flying thick and fast to European capitals and North American cities, and the bulk mineral resources railed and shipped to the East. Such a state of affairs is entirely objectionable. The delegates to the 53rd national conference must express themselves on these structural inequities and persuade the ANC to adopt sound policies that will speed up the pace of change in the economy, including on the land question, while strengthening South Africa’s position as a globally competitive and attractive investment destination.

The delegates must examine and debate the unintended consequences of the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act as a default hindrance to the state’s ability to leverage its buying power to deepen transformation. The delegates must pay special attention to the demonstrated, yet stifled, capacity of the small, medium and micro-sized enterprise sector to unlock the potential of the economy for accelerated growth and sustainable employment creation. The vexing question is: isn’t it about time that South Africa had a standalone ministry that is focused on small enterprises?

A lot has been said about corruption, yet we cannot emphasise enough the need to defeat corruption, both in the public and private sector. Corruption is a curse against the interests of the poor, and if not attended to will soon erode the pillars of our democracy, including Parliament and the judiciary.

Essentially, the delegates have their work cut out. The right policies must win, and misguided policy choices must be defeated. That is the only way in which the delegates can serve to strengthen the ANC, and in the final analysis the country.

Sandile Zungu

Executive chairman of Zungu Investments Company (Zico) and secretary of the Black Business Council. uZung’ ozulayo, umfana waseMlazi omusha sha! (the galavanting Zungu, the boy from Umlazi Brand New Township)

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Dear Mangaung delegate,

LET me apologise to the delegates at Mangaung. Who am I to tell them what policies to decide on at their conference? This is what many forget. We bewail the fact that 4,000 delegates at the ANC conference hold the fate of the nation in their hands. But they are merely choosing their own leadership and deciding their own policies. It is their electoral success that enables this to be translated to the state level.

Those who lecture the ANC should beware that their crude lobbying, often cloaked under the threat of market collapse, does not provoke a backlash. Too often sectoral interests are projected as those of the nation. Business bemoans low economic growth but remains complacent about great economic inequality. It rightly criticises policy uncertainty, but never looks at its role in fomenting the social conditions that provoked uprisings like Marikana. They jump on the bandwagon of religious leaders’ criticisms but forget that these relate to the neglect of the poor and could be as easily directed at the enrichment and corruption of the private sector.

Also, business is not homogenous. Finance and manufacturing have distinct interests, as shown by their differing responses to the economic reforms of the Zuma administration.

The delegates’ responsibility is to craft policy for the entire nation. This requires balancing competing interests. The ANC has not performed optimally in this regard. For instance, it has adopted the National Development Plan (NDP) and the New Growth Path (NGP). Both prioritise small business, industrialisation and infrastructural development to enhance employment and increase livelihoods. But in order to address inequality, the NGP, unlike the NDP, wants to constrain enrichment at the upper end through an incomes policy and broad-based BEE. This is a significant difference and the ANC must clarify how it would reconcile these.

Corruption should be the other priority as it can derail development. Corruption can never be addressed through a better ministerial handbook or tightening up bureaucratic rules. Progress will only be made when there is political will to address this scourge. This will involve acting against individuals close to power, and ending the conflicts of interest where some Cabinet ministers and NEC officials own shares in companies that trade with state institutions.

The sacrifices of the poor to free this society demand that their interests be as prioritised as much as those of business. This stresses the importance of a competitive, dynamic knowledge-based economy.

Adam Habib

Deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Johannesburg

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Dear Mangaung delegate,

SINCE 1994, the ANC government has made significant strides in improving the lives of all South Africans. While access to basic services such as water, electricity, education, housing and social services has broadened, we still face high unemployment, poverty and inequality, coupled with increasing corruption. For many, a better life is still a distant dream.

The reality is there is no silver bullet or magic wand to deal with these interlinked challenges. For too long our leaders have set their sights on plans for the next fiscal year or at best, the next five years. This year, the state unveiled the National Development Plan (NDP) which was preceded by a frank and honest assessment of the problems facing us. While there have been numerous plans and strategies in the past, the NDP has received significant buy-in and in my view, is the best guide to reduce poverty and inequality over the coming two decades.

In light of the ANC’s commitment to reducing unemployment, poverty and inequality and driving economic growth, one would have expected this plan would form part of significant debate at Mangaung. However, after reading the 54 pages of your Recommendations from the 4th National Policy Conference, I found to my disappointment only three, rather vague references to the NDP.

A further disappointment came with regard to measures to deal with education — yet another critical intervention which could address poverty and inequality. The policy document fails to sufficiently prioritise the education crisis we are confronting.

The results from the annual national assessment released by Basic Education Minister Angie Moshekga two weeks ago paint a rather dismal picture. Education, as you know, is the most important vehicle through which societies advance and progress. Surely this ought to be much higher on your agenda? The government and the ANC cannot address these challenges on their own. If you elevate education to the top of your policy agenda, we will have a platform to mobilise (all) to contribute to a national endeavour to turn the tide.

Leslie Maasdorp

Vice-president, Business Leadership SA

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Dear Mangaung delegate,

I WRITE this as an ordinary South African who loves his country. I also write as a corporate leader privileged to direct strategic resources so they have a positive impact on society.

I write from an abundant store of goodwill to those with the challenging role of leadership across all spheres. I write with a strong sense of higher purpose and a desire to serve.

The African National Congress’s 53rd national conference will have significant impact. Its influence will extend far beyond the interests of party members and branches.

At a time when the global economy faces perilous uncertainties, South Africa and her friends across the world will be looking to you for an indication of how our ANC-led government will meet what President Zuma has called the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

You meet at a time when the world has never been more in need of resolute leadership if we are to overcome the economic, environmental and human challenges we face.

Our own country is in great need of the inspiring leadership with which South Africans have in the past overcome seemingly intractable problems.

This conference is a unique opportunity for leaders to provide our citizens with a message of renewed hope and optimism, and to create a sense of stability, unity and certainty in a society that is in great need of reassurance.

There is a higher purpose to your deliberations.

It is true the government cannot resolve these pressing issues alone. South Africa’s sophisticated business sector is well placed to collaborate with the government to create appropriate public policy and legislative frameworks which provide long-term vision.

We urge that in your policy debates you bear in mind the very deep reservoir of goodwill in the private sector, and that you create space for the role that corporate South Africa can play in realising our common vision of a country in which prosperity, security and economic growth can flourish.

More than ever, domestic and foreign investor perceptions require the assurance that investment destinations are serious about combating corruption and waste, that government affairs are transparent and accountable, and that the rule of law is respected.

We know that in part, the position of those offshore is informed by their perception, and therefore it remains imperative that this conference should affirm our bona fides to the values, principles and policies that speak to South Africa as a great investment destination and trading partner, and that it should make those assurances unequivocally.

Our achievements in expanding economic opportunity to the previously excluded, providing essential services to the poor, and creating a sound macroeconomic environment, have been impressive. The governing party’s role now is to build on that progress by recommitting itself to the democratic tenets of our constitution, the transformation of our economy, the improvement of the lives of all our people and the entrenchment of liberty.

In particular, we believe that your deliberations should pay urgent attention to the challenges of education, skills development and labour relations.

Edward Kieswetter

Group CE of Alexander Forbes

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Dear Mangaung delegate,

WHILE most of the public and media attention in the run-up to the Mangaung conference has been focused on the politics of personality — no doubt important in its own way — the choice of policies that the ruling party and its allies signal will have a far more profound and enduring effect on the future of our country.

South Africa faces multiple socioeconomic challenges that require action from all stakeholders in a process where interdependence is a reality and successful action often requires partnership.

From an economic perspective, however, the reality is that the bulk of government revenue is generated by the private sector and the people it employs: the state’s revenue is neither created nor owned by the state, but is the product of economic activity and the associated taxes.

Both the New Growth Path and the National Development Plan recognise that the chief creator of wealth and employment is the private sector.

Both agree that higher rates of economic growth are required to generate more employment and more revenue for the state and its core functions.

Above all else, to perform its role effectively the private sector requires policy certainty and stability. To illustrate this, think of a big mining investment of billions of rand and a life that will stretch 50 years or more into the future once the decision has been made: that sort of investment simply cannot be contemplated with confidence if mining policies and regulation change every year or two, including calling into question such fundamental basics as the ownership of the assets.

Policy certainty and the confidence it creates are also important because South Africans do not save enough for needed investments such as infrastructure, new factories and mines that the government and the private sector have to make. South Africa is dependent to quite a considerable degree on foreigners for such capital.

If foreign capital ceases to flow to South Africa or is made more expensive because rating agencies lose confidence in it, the currency will weaken and inflation will take off, undermining many of the government’s core programmes, particularly those affecting the poor.

Hence, there is a heavy burden of responsibility on Mangaung delegates to think carefully about the policy choices they make in agriculture, mining and land. Populist solutions that pretend there are quick fixes for which others will pay the bill, will certainly undermine economic growth, investment and job creation and will rob the state of the revenue it needs to address its health, education and welfare challenges.

In fact, Mangaung delegates should be signalling to the leaders they elect that there is a burning need for the government to work more closely with business and the private sector. There is no country that has succeeded in the post-Second World War era where government did not work closely with the business sector, as well as with other stakeholders in the pursuit of national goals.

Business leaders have again reiterated this week that they are ready to step up to the plate and play their role in implementing the National Development Plan.

Dear delegate, you should be telling your party, the alliance and the government it leads that, in the national interest, they should urgently move to improve relations with business.

Michael Spicer

Vice-president, Business Leadership South Africa

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Dear Mangaung delegate,

I WRITE to you as a person involved in the business sector, but more so as a patriot deeply committed to our country who is concerned about the inability of South Africa to reach its full potential.

There are three broad areas I urge you to consider: matters of principle, leadership and policy. I will express my thoughts on each of these.

Matters of principle

• Be absolutely unequivocal that the African National Congress (ANC) will protect the pillars of our democracy, our constitution, our courts, our media and chapter 9 institutions, and enable these to be independent and critical;

• Have the confidence to change our electoral system to a mixed constituency-based and proportional representation (as proposed in the Slabbert commission) one, so that we truly become accountable to those we serve;

• To ensure we deploy people into the public service who are competent to do the jobs;

• Encourage critical debate and respond constructively ; and

• To do everything necessary to obliterate corruption and to lead by example.

Leadership

To be guided by the following criteria in decisions on who we appoint as our leaders:

• Honesty;

• Capability;

• Service;

• Ability to make decisions; and

• Ability to lead South Africans as a compact under the vision of the National Development Plan.

Policy:

Please consider the following :

• The need to attract portfolio and long-term investment ;

• That all policies must comply with the constitution;

• That the ANC should support a market economy;

• That state intervention only be to facilitate an equitable market environment and normalise areas of markets that don’t work;

• That our primary developmental plan be the National Development Plan;

• That you will not consider issues such as nationalisation, expropriation without compensation and any actions inhibiting our ability to address our socioeconomic challenges ; and

• Enable a policy environment that extracts the best from all sectors of society.

Dear delegates, use this opportunity to improve the lives of all our people.

Cas Coovadia

(In my personal capacity, as a South African)

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Dear Mangaung delegate,

SOUTH Africa needs you. The ruling party has a huge responsibility to put the interests of the country above all else. So do you!

You have a huge role to play in shaping the policy and strategic architecture, not just of the ANC, but of the country at large. South Africa needs a compelling vision of the future underpinned by a tangible sense of common purpose.

I urge you to focus on building unity of party and country alike. The ANC needs to establish an enduring emotional connection with all sectors of society if it wants to succeed in rallying the nation around its vision.

This requires hard work. It also requires confidence-building messages from Mangaung. I urge you to leverage Mangaung as a strategic and defining moment to begin a new conversation with society.

New brands of politics and economics are needed to effectively navigate the mosaic of complexity in an increasingly globalising and competitive world. The world is watching Mangaung. What is said and done in Mangaung and after will have consequences that are not less profound.

The good thing is that as a delegate you have the power to influence that in a positive and constructive way. My plea to you is to actively promote policies that will enhance SA’s global competitiveness, create jobs, turn around our education system and promote local and foreign investment, while alleviating poverty and inequality. Shy away from misguided policy positions that may have disastrous unintended consequences for generations.

Mangaung is a great opportunity to deepen and reinforce confidence in the country’s economy and society. Our problems are not insurmountable. They are largely of our own creation.

Only we can turn around South Africa to become a first-world nation in a generation, as indeed it can and must be. But we cannot do that with a divided and quarrelsome ruling party. I urge you to discharge your task at the party’s 53rd conference in a considered and responsible way. I believe you can and will do that. History will judge you. South Africa is at a crossroads. The direction taken in Mangaung will have an effect on current and future generations in not insignificant ways.

I urge you to exercise your role in ways that help unlock the country’s full potential. This requires a capable and delivering state that can combine forces with business and other non-state actors.

Kuseni Dlamini

Chairman of Times Media Group

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Dear Mangaung delegate,

ON the eve of the elective conference in Mangaung, the Black Management Forum wishes delegates and participants well for a productive conference.

We hope all participants will have the best interests of our country at heart in dealing with the challenges we have, and put South Africa in a competitive position.

The forum will continue to be vocal on issues of socioeconomic transformation and remain committed in assisting with the implementation of good government policy.

We sincerely hope all participants will rise to the challenges of our time.

Bonang Mohale

Black Management Forum president

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Dear Mangaung delegate,

YOU are about to take decisions that will have a serious effect on the land and the people we all love. You can take these decisions with your heart or with your head.

They are your decisions, but they will become our decisions, South Africa’s decisions, decisions that will be felt by our children and their children, and their children and their children’s children.

And for that reason you will be remembered for what you decided and why you decided. One day when you are an ancestor, someone will look back and say: “It was in December 2012 that it happened, and my people were there, my people did this thing.”

When tough choices are needed, we need to think clearly and slowly, because we know that our choices simply have to be right. Right for a long time: 10, 20 years or longer.

How should you decide? We who won’t be there cannot expect you to do what we want. We can only provide some of our little wisdom, then leave you to do the right thing. And what will this wisdom be? What will last for 10, 20 years?

At Ratings Afrika we measure the soundness of governance.

We know that if you carefully consider the effects that your decisions will have on all the stakeholders in our country, it will help you decide. All the stakeholders, not just some; not only those of today, but also future stakeholders.

Please make us proud of you. And please make sure we remain proud of your decisions 10, 20 or more years from now.

Please decide with wisdom.

Please think clearly, slowly and quietly.

Charl Kocks

Agency principal at Ratings Afrika