Zweli Mkhize: A new ANC leadership must take responsibility for economic growth
The South African economy is in a state of paralysis that requires our urgent attention. Without a joint effort from all South Africans, it will be near impossible to realise the rapid economic recovery that is needed to once again experience the economic growth rates necessary to address persistent high unemployment, poverty, high income inequality and to fund government’s infrastructure development programme.
Without growth, our hopes and dreams for our country will be challenging to make a reality because they can only become a reality in a vibrant and strong economy. However, we need to aspire to a better period of economic growth than we have had in the past that has not created enough jobs and has not adequately addressed income inequality and poverty.
We also cannot have a public infrastructure development programme that only benefits big and already established businesses in the construction sector. Lack of confidence will eventually bring our economy to its knees if it is not dealt with timeously and decisively.
A united ANC is instrumental in creating a stable political environment which is important for the stability of the economy, country and our policy framework. Robust engagement on all issues is part of the ANC’s DNA and I encourage this open dialogue between comrades to continue because it makes us keep each other honest, entrenches accountability for all members irrespective of ranking, and this culture is aligned to the spirit of our democracy.
Open and honest dialogue has never been detrimental to the unity of the ANC until recently and there have been inconsistent messages from various parts of the organisation and certain developments within certain government departments that do not give the impression that the ANC has one policy framework.
Policy certainty is a non-negotiable to attract investments and after our December conference we should provide certainty and clarity on policies we are looking to implement in order achieve inclusive and sustainable growth.
South Africans also need to feel optimistic about the prospects of their country, otherwise we will not be able to sell South Africa as an attractive investment destination to offshore investors.
Ethical political and business leadership and good governance will provide strong impetus in the revival of the belief our people have in the outlook of South Africa.
The key catalysts for sustainable economic growth
Radical Economic Transformation should be a key component of our sustainable growth plan that will ensure greater participation of black professionals in driving the country forward. For the avoidance of doubt, RET is not a political slogan but rather a deliberate strategy to achieve inclusive economic growth in our country in our lifetime.
The abuse of the term “RET” in order to score political points cannot deter our resolve to ensure broad and meaningful participation by all willing and able professionals, particularly black professionals. We need to engage with both local and international institutional investors that provide capital to companies listed on the JSE on our economic recovery plan so that they will continue to provide the funding support needed to drive growth.
Big business should reverse the recent trend of maintaining high cash balances and pulling back on the capital expenditure programmes that are not only important for the growth of their businesses but also for the rest of the economy. The recent cut in jobs by some of the large businesses listed on the JSE is a key concern for us.
Small to medium enterprises will become increasingly important for job creation and will drive the innovation needed to create new industries and stimulate the economy. Black professionals have a multiplier effect often referred to as “black tax” because in most cases their immediate and extended family members rely on them to provide the financial support needed for education, healthcare and other important needs. This ultimately alleviates some of the pressure faced with government’s social grant programme.
The impact of the upcoming December conference on South Africa’s future
The new leadership that we will elect during the December conference needs to have the capabilities, determination and reputation that will give confidence to the investor community and credit ratings agencies of the revival of an investment friendly South Africa.
The adverse implications and ramifications of a new ANC leadership that does not inspire confidence will be felt immediately and filter through to economic and capital markets’ performance. These developments will take years to resolve even with our best intentions and efforts. We have seen how political decisions have had a direct impact on the growth or lack of growth of our economy. As a political leadership, it is therefore our role to take full responsibility for the growth of this economy by making sure that we make transparent decisions that are in the best interests of our people. For us to achieve this, there has to be involvement of all stakeholder groupings in the country. Economic transformation is not just the responsibility of a few, it requires a collective effort. DM