Mantashe: Please help the ANC

SCATHING: ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe says Numsa are making an assumption that there is no ANC.  PHOTO: HALDEN KROG
SCATHING: ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe says Numsa are making an assumption that there is no ANC. PHOTO: HALDEN KROG

We must be bolder and ask the most critical questions

THE ANC recently published its policy discussion documents. The purpose is to prepare for our policy conference in June and and the 53rd conference in December.

At the Mangaung conference the ANC must take bold decisions about the country's required direction in order to fundamentally transform the lives of South Africans.

Throughout its 100 years, the ANC has been informed by the principle that it is the parliament of the people. This principle places an obligation on the ANC.

When it prepares for major and decisive gatherings, it must consult widely.

This is done to make sure that its final decisions are informed and influenced by people's lived experiences, scientific research, public opinion and national conditions. Giving commentators and analysts access to the documents is an attempt to solicit their ideas to enrich the discussions.

Since inception the ANC has always accepted that it does not have the monopoly on ideas. For example, on January 8 1912 our founding forebears saw it necessary that all the people of our country should discuss and agree on the formation of a national liberation movement.

South Africa, today, confronts the triple challenges of increased poverty, high unemployment and widening inequality. To eradicate these, we need to act boldly to remove the aspects that impede our country from reaching its full potential of a better life for all.

First, it is evident that land distribution remains biased in favour of the white section of the population and that the status quo is unsustainable.

We could opt for land grabs without compensation and gain instant popularity among the people, or leave the beneficiaries of apartheid to be fundamentalist about the protection of private property clauses and thus claim to have the sole right to own land.

Any contribution made must, therefore, suggest how best we can address the problem quickly to diffuse the emerging impatience and steer it from causing real conflict.

Second, in the areas of education and health, what else is to be done? We have seen some improvements in the matric results over the last two years.

The Annual National Assessment is a useful tool to analyse progress. The low level we occupy in international comparisons remains a matter of grave concern. Our educationists must contribute ideas that can help improve the situation.

Third, our economy is not growing fast enough to absorb a visible number of new entrants into the labour market.

The government's infrastructure programme is one serious attempt to deal with the reality of high unemployment. How then can we ensure rapid and higher economic growth that will take us out of the middle economy trap?

Fourth, our political transition was effectively managed - hence the prevailing stability. We must now effect radical change in the area of economic transformation. We must urgently reduce poverty and not argue for patience among our people. This is the core of what our Strategy and Tactics document terms the "second transition".

Transformation is a function of civil society taking an active interest in whatever change is under way. Between now and the conference there is an opportunity to interact with the ANC.

What the KAIROS Southern Africa Group and the Afrikaner academics have put forward must now be engaged to the benefit of South African society.

We must interact with various formations. Those who contribute must appreciate that their ideas will not find a vacuum in the ANC. They will add value and shape the content of the draft documents.

Furthermore, contributors should avoid wallowing in pontificating about how "less radical" our policy proposals are, but need to dedicate their energy to suggesting alternatives.

The ANC leads society. The more open the ANC is, the more society accepts the baseline of policy framework for the country.

The fact that opposition parties accept principles developed over many years of struggle is indicative of the progress we have made since the dawn of democracy. The opening up of the ANC policy discussion will reinforce this progress and marshal society for further progress.

If we are to live up to all these expectations of society we must be bolder in asking the most critical questions and present serious ideas to change what we do not want.

  • Mantashe is secretary-general of the ANC