ADDRESS BY ANC PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA TO THE 15TH NATIONAL CONGRESS OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN COMMUNIST PARTY
Chairperson of the SACP, Cde Senzeni Zokwana, General Secretary of the SACP, Cde Blade Nzimande, Members of the Central Committee,
The leadership of the Alliance,
Veterans and Stalwarts of our Movement,
Comrades and Friends,
On behalf of the entire membership and leadership of the African National Congress, I bring you warm, fraternal, and revolutionary greetings. The bonds that have joined the ANC and the SACP together in common struggle over many decades are as valued and as important as they have ever been. The party has grown in membership, it has also grown in strength and in influence. We applaud you because by growing the party you have contributed to strengthening the democratic progressive movement in our country. Cde Blade Nzimande, you are to be applauded for leading the party over many years and growing it to the organization that it is today. We thank you and the entire leadership of the party for ensuring that the party remains strong even during trying times. Even at the darkest moments of our struggle, even during the most turbulent of times, this revolutionary alliance has stood firm and remained resolute in pursuit of our shared programme, the National Democratic Revolution.
As many have called for the dissolution of our Alliance, as many have called it outdated and irrelevant, we have continued to work together to advance the interests of the South African people, and the poor and the working class in particular. The ANC and the SACP have had a tightly interwoven relationship which spans many decades and we remain firmly committed to our alliance with the SACP, and we remain convinced that the role of the SACP in advancing the fundamental transformation of our economy and society is very key to the future of our country. As a movement, we fully support the determination of the SACP to build a powerful socialist movement of workers and the poor.
We recognise, however, that it is not enough to state our commitment to this Alliance, but that we need to work hard and work continuously to ensure that this movement remains united, cohesive and effective. We recognise that there have been weaknesses, lapses, and shortcomings in how we have managed this relationship and how we have approached the common tasks and responsibilities that are at hand. At times our alliance structures at national, provincial and regional levels have not worked as well as they should have in responding to the challenges that our movement faces.
Among other things, the discussion about the reconfiguration of the Alliance needs to be concluded so that we have an Alliance that is suited to the conditions and tasks of the present. As President of the ANC, I do support that we should have a thoroughgoing discussion on the reconfiguration of the Alliance. We must discuss in depth what our roles and responsibilities are going forward. We are going to devote time to conclude that discussion which has already started. We will make sure that the ANC has concluded its discussions so that when the Alliance Political Council meets we are able to finalise our discussions on the reconfigured Alliance.
It must be an Alliance that is able to develop a common view on crucial areas of social and economic development, including on questions such as the form and content of a social compact. The challenges that have beset the ANC in recent times have also manifested themselves within the Alliance, and have at times contributed to some of the challenges experienced by our alliance partners, both the SACP and COSATU.
We have a shared interest in the state of each other’sorganisations. The SACP has and must have a profound interest in the renewal and revitalisation of the ANC. And by the same measure, the ANC has an interest in an SACP that has the organisational coherence and thecapacity to advance its policies and programmes and to be an unfailing champion of the workers and the poor in our country.
We also have an interest in the organization integrity of COSATU as well, and have been able to demonstrate that when COSATU had its own challenges. We therefore come to this Congress to state our determination, as the African National Congress, to support the SACP and to build the alliance. We come to this Congress to ask the membership and the leadership of the SACP to actively support and be actively involved in the renewal and the rebuilding of the African National congress. I call upon you to be actively involved because that task of renewing and rebuilding the ANC should be seen as our collective task.
Your Congress takes place at a difficult time for our country. The accumulated legacy of colonialism and apartheid has been compounded by the effects of state capture and corruption, by the devastating effect of the COVID- 19 pandemic, and by an energy crisis that has lasted for more than a decade, and now by global instability that the world is going through. Our people are suffering.
They are suffering from massive job losses as a result of the pandemic and the public violence and destruction in July last year. They are suffering from the rising cost of living, which is mainly driven by a rise in the prices of food and fuel due to, in part, the conflict in Ukraine, the effects of climate change and disruptions to global supply chains. Our people are suffering from persistent load shedding, which not only causes great inconvenience to households, to the lives of individual South Africans, tobusinesses, and to various institutions of learning, but is holding back the growth and recovery of our economy. Our people are also suffering from the daily threat of violent crime and gangsterism, fueled by deteriorating social and economic conditions that prevail in our country today. Yet, while several disastrous events have conspired in recent years to worsen the conditions under which South Africans live, the underlying problem is that we have not done enough to transform our economy and our society.
We have not done enough to tackle the extreme inequality of our apartheid and colonial past, which continues to divide our society by race, gender, class and regional origin. Since the advent of democracy, we have made significant and undeniable progress in responding to the basic needs of our people. That cannot be denied. We have done this through the provision of housing, water and sanitation, electricity, health care, education, grants and social infrastructure.
However, despite this progress, inequality remains a defining feature of our society. We see this inequality manifested in areas including access to skills, health care, security, land, productive assets, employment and other economic opportunities. It is to overcome these social and economic conditions that we continue to work to advance the National Democratic Revolution. The NDR is the reason for the existence of our alliance and why we are determined to build and to strengthenthe broader democratic movement. So, if we are to make any progress, we need to come up with ideas, proposals, initiative and various thoughts to fundamentally change the structure, purpose and operation of our economy.
We need to ensure, as the Freedom Charter declares, that the people share in the country’s wealth. We all agree that the people of our country do not all share in the wealth of our country as set out in the Freedom Charter. A number of observers who have analysed our economy tell us that some of the impediments that stand in the way of inclusive participation and growth in our economy are the high levels of concentration of ownership and control of our economy by a few. The spatial architecture of our country and the skills misalignment contribute a great deal as one of thosefactors that impede the growth of our economy.
One of the consistent objectives of our Alliance, since the adoption of the Freedom Charter, is to address the issue of concentration of our economy. Following the adoption of our Freedom Charter, our movement went to Morogoro. In Morogoro the issue of the concentration of the economy was raised prominently and it was characterised as a monopoly control of our economy and this has persisted ever since. Ever since then we never came up with proposals and ways of how to deconcentrate the economy of our country.
The key issue that should confront this conference is to debate precisely this issue. It has now become clear in the 30-year period that the African National Congresshas been the governing party, leading the Alliance, our economy has not grown at the level required to be able to absorb the increasing number of unemployed people. While progress has been made in bringing new entrants into several areas of the economy, the issue of concentration
and monopoly control remains unresolved. Today, monopolies continue to hold back growth and development, stifle competition, inflate prices and continue to exclude millions of South Africans from economic opportunity.
While we are committed to dismantling monopolies and broadening control and ownership of the economy, we have not sufficiently developed the instruments to do so.This Congress should come up with those thoughts and ideas. We have been strong on theory, but weak on implementation. We have strengthened our competition laws and are becoming more assertive in using them to open up key economic sectors. We must remember that the Competition Act itself states that, through greater competition, it aims to promote agreater spread of ownership in the economy, in particular to increase the ownership stakes of historically disadvantaged persons. A significant development in the application of our competition policies has been in the greater use of employee share ownership schemes as a vehicle for empowerment. The Party must reflect on this.
We need to draw on our experiences in a concerted drive towards greater worker ownership in companies, giving them a stake in the viability and sustainability of the business and providing for more meaningful empowerment. As the democratic government we have introduced programmes – such as the black industrialists programme – to fund and support new entrants. We have significantly expanded access to education and skills development, which is essential for any effort to enable greater access to economic opportunities.
We have undertaken a programme of land reform, which has seen over 9 million hectares of agricultural land transferred through both restitution and redistribution. Yet, we have not yet produced in detail a comprehensive programme to end monopoly control of the economy and advance with greater urgency and purpose towards the vision of the Freedom Charter. At this moment in our history, this must be the central and over-riding task of our revolutionary alliance.
In undertaking this work, we must use every resource and every lever at our disposal to drive inclusive growth. As we grapple with the challenge of economic transformation, we should reflect on the Strategy and Tactics document that was adopted at the Morogoro Conference in 1969, which said: “We do not underestimate the complexities which will face a people’s government during the transformation period nor the enormity of the problems of meeting economic needs of the masses of the oppressed people. But one thing is certain – in our land this cannot be effectively tackled unless the basic wealth and the basic resources are at the disposal of the people as a whole and are not manipulated by sections or individuals be they White or Black.”
Now more than ever before, more than half a century after Morogoro, we have a far clearer sense of the complexities and challenges of meeting the economic needs of our people. We also have a clearer sense of what needs to be done to overcome these challenges and build the society envisaged in the Freedom Charter. What is certain is that we will only be able to successfully undertake these tasks if we are united in purpose and in action. The Party and COSATU have called for a Summit todiscuss the economy and energy, and I support that and would like to see it held as soon as possible so that all of us can benefit from the insights, knowledge and wisdom because a lot is at stake right now.
The Summit must also primarily focus on how we can generate growth that creates employment, growth that allows cooperatives, SMMEs and informal businesses to emerge and expand, that enables the expansion of social protection to the poor and vulnerable, and that promotes more effective economic empowerment of black South Africans, in particular women and young people. At that Summit we must discuss the basic income grant, we must discuss how we deconcentrate the ownership of our economy. That time has now arrived and the Alliance must have deep thoroughgoing discussions without any fear, without holding back.
In determining the respective roles and capabilities of the public and private sectors, we should draw guidance from the ‘Ready to Govern’ document of 1992, whichsets out policy guidelines for a democratic South Africa. During the Summit we should reflect on what we set out in 1992 to see whether it is still relevant. The ‘Ready to Govern’ document envisaged a democratic state with ultimate responsibility for “coordinating, planning and guiding the development of the economy towards sustainable growth” in cooperation with the trade union movement, business and other organs of society.
It spoke of the need for economic policy that democratises the economy and creates productive employment opportunities at a living wage for all South Africans. The document envisaged “a dynamic private sector, employing the skills and acumen of all South Africans…and of business activities which contribute significantly to job creation, being actively encouraged.” There are some that have urged us to make a choice between a developmental state that drives economic and social transformation, and a vibrant, expanding private sector that fuels growth and employment.
Just as we recognise the role of business in creating employment, we should not diminish the central role of the state in coordinating, planning, guiding and enablingthe development of the economy. We need a strong, capable and developmental state, with a public sector which has a dynamic and agile private sector that work together and complement each other. Yet, if the state is to effectively support growth and development as envisaged in ‘Ready to Govern’, then it needs to have sufficient capital, skills and must highlight the use of technology as one of the key enablers in modern times. It needs to be efficient, innovative and competitive.
Unfortunately, many of our state owned companies do not exhibit these features. There are various reasons for this, including policy missteps, poor management, state capture and corruption, and a failure to adapt to changing technology or market conditions. That is why we have embarked on an overhaul of the SOE landscape to promote greater accountability, oversight and competitiveness. It is why we have embarked on reforms in key network industries, including energy, telecommunications, water, ports and rail.
These measures aim to improve efficiency, introduce new technology, mobilise greater investment from both public and private sources, and introduce competition where this would support our developmental objectives. As we undertake these reforms, we remain firm on our position that strategic SOEs must remain in public hands if they are to drive growth, transformation and development. There is always this notion, as we try to restructure these state owned enterprises, accusations are thrown around – that what we are seeking to do is to privatize SOEs so that we can sell them cheaply – that is a lie. We are not, through restructuring, seeking to privatize, in fact, we are trying to modernise to ensure that the state plays its given role to ensure that SOEs function optimally.
We are pursuing a developmental agenda. The reforms we are undertaking in the energy sector provide a good illustration of the approach we need to take. Our national utility, Eskom, has not only been in a state of distress for many years, but it has been operating according to a model that is no longer suited to the technology or the economic conditions of the present.
For the last 100 years, Eskom has operated as a monopoly, a single company responsible for electricity generation, transmission and distribution. For much of its history this model has worked, but we are today witnessing the great risks associated with placing sole responsibility for electricity generation in one company. When Eskom fails, the country is thrown into darkness. That is why we have embarked on a process to establish three separate state-owned companiesresponsible for generation, transmission and distribution, and why we have also brought in the generation of energy from solar and wind. It is why we have increased the licensing threshold for those who would want to generate to be higher than what it has always been.
Not only are these measures intended to address the current shortfall in electricity, but they are also intended to enable Eskom to improve its financial position and operational performance, and become a far more competitive provider of electricity. In the coming days, we will be announcing additional measures to address the current electricity crisis by bringing new generation capacity online. The severe economic and social impact of load shedding means that we have to use every available means and remove every regulatory obstacle to bring extra electricity onto the grid as soon as possible. The transformation of the economy must take place alongside, and in support of, urgent measures to create employment and support livelihoods. As the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic took effect, we acted to lessen the impact on the poor and the vulnerable.
In April 2020 we introduced the largest social and economic relief package in our history. This provided cash directly to the poorest households, wage support to workers and various forms of relief to struggling businesses. As a result, many jobs were saved, many businesses were kept afloat and millions of households were kept out of dire poverty. Some measures, like the R350 Social Relief of Distressgrant, remain in place, although there are still some challenges in ensuring that it continues to reach those who most badly need it.
This is happening alongside measures we have taken to promote employment, like the Presidential Employment Stimulus, which has provided work and livelihood opportunities to around 880,000 people since it was started. The Presidential Employment Stimulus is a good example of an effective state intervention that responds to the immediate problem of unemployment while the job market takes time to recover from the pandemic. The Employment Stimulus
programmes are not simply about providing unemployed people with an income – they are making a real contribution to social and economic development.
The school assistants programme, for example, has given some 600,000 young people work experience opportunities while adding significant value to the schools in which they have been working. The vouchers have been given to nearly 70,000 smallholder farmers for agricultural inputs has reportedly brought tens of thousands of hectares of fallow land into production, boosting agricultural output at a time of growing global food insecurity. As we expand public and social employment programmes, we have been taking steps to encourage the growth of SMMEs, cooperatives and informal businesses.
These include the expansion of the Employment Tax Incentive to encourage small businesses to employ more people, a loan guarantee scheme that has been redesigned to provide finance to smaller businesses, and the reduction of the red tape that holds back the growth of businesses. These are some of the practical ways in which we are both supporting livelihoods and advancing economic transformation. While economic policies and programs make an important contribution to the broader task of reducing inequality, they are not the only areas where we need to address exclusion and marginalization. That is why, for example, we need to proceed with the implementation of the National Health Insurance, to ensure that all South Africans can receive quality health care regardless of their ability to pay.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, on the one hand, the extent of inequality in access to health care, and, on the other hand, the ability of private and public health care to work together to confront a national health emergency.This should both motivate and encourage us as we work to implement the NHI. We have done much to address inequality in education,through fee-free schools and massively expanding the provision of financial support for higher education students from poor and working-class families. But we need to focus greater attention on the quality of our educational outcomes and in reducing the high dropout rates in both basic and higher education.
The inequality that exists across all these areas of economic and social development has a substantial gender dimension.Our struggle for fundamental economic and social transformation means that we must address the status of women in all areas of public and private life. Not only are women disadvantaged in access to employment, ownership, education, skills and economic networks, but they also face discrimination in political, social, religious, traditional, domestic and other settings. They are faced with extreme levels of gender-based violence, abuse and femicide.
The National Democratic Revolution cannot advance unless we, as a society, address gender inequality and relentlessly pursue the empowerment of women in all areas of life.We will only be able to advance the National Democratic Revolution if we rid our movement of myopic gender policies. We must ensure that the empowerment of women within our own ranks, our own structures and within government institutions, is upgraded to a higher level. We will also not be able to advance the National Democratic Revolution if we do not rid our movement factionalism, patronage and corruption. We will only succeed if we end all forms of state capture and resist all efforts by those who benefit from corruption to undermine our democracy, our institutions and our constitutional order.
The SACP must be commended for its resolute opposition to corruption, for speaking out against state capture when many within our ranks were silent, and for remaining vigilant against any efforts to steal the resources that rightly belong to the South African people. The report of the State Capture Commission has made findings that are critical of public institutions, companies and our organisation, the African National Congress.
It has made damning findings against several leaders and members, and has made far-reaching recommendations to ensure accountability and redress. Difficult as these findings may be, we need to see them as an opportunity to confront our own shortcomings, to address our weaknesses, and to rebuild and renew our movement.
As we have correctly noted, state capture is a form of counter-revolution that directly threatens the advancement of the National Democratic Revolution. We have seen the intensification of counter-revolution through the destruction of state-owned enterprises, the relentless attack on institutions of democracy with the aim of rendering them powerless and irrelevant, large-scale corruption and the weakening of the ANC resulting in a declining ability to discharge its revolutionary duties. It is in this context that we should view the orchestrated acts of public violence and destruction of July 2021.
This was a deliberate, but unsuccessful, effort to foment a popular insurrection against the democratic state and our constitutional order with the intention of shielding those responsible for wrongdoing from accountability. As this Alliance, we need to understand that the onslaught on our democracy continues in several overt and covert
forms, and we need to remain resolute in our determination to defeat each and every effort to derail the National Democratic Revolution. As I conclude, allow me to address a matter that has concerned many people within the democratic movement and in society more broadly.
Just over a month ago, the former head of the State Security Agency laid a criminal complaint against me with the South African Police Service. The complaint related to a theft that occurred on my farm in Limpopo in February 2020.The allegations contained in the complaint are serious and it is only correct that they be thoroughly investigated and that the due legal process be allowed to take its course without interference. As we emerge from the era of state capture, we must be firm on the principle that no person is above the law and that every person, regardless of the position they occupy, must be held accountable for their actions. I have pledged my full cooperation to any investigation of this complaint.I am prepared to be held accountable.
I opted of my own volition to appear before the Integrity Commission. We were meant to meet a week ago, the date was not suitable, we will finalise and I will appear before the Integrity Commission. But I will not allow these allegations to deter me from what needs to be done to rebuild our economy, I will not allow this to deter me, to discourage me from the work that I have to do. I will not be intimidated, nor distracted, nor bullied into submission. For as long as I am the President of South Africa, I will do my work and I will continue to work alongside South Africans to create jobs, to tackle poverty, to build safe communities and to change the lives of our people for the better, and tackle the issue of electricity in our country.
I will continue to pursue far-reaching economic reforms, to secure a reliable supply of affordable electricity now and into the future, to end state capture and corruption, to rebuild our institutions, and to ensure effective delivery of basic services to all. For as long as I am the President of the African National Congress, I will fulfil the mandate of our 54th National Conference to undertake and complete the fundamental renewal of our movement. I will work, alongside all the leaders and cadres of our movement, and together with our Alliance partners, toend factionalism, patronage and corruption.
We will continue to build our branches as centres of community activism and re-establish our cadres as selfless servants of the people. As a movement, as an Alliance and as a people, we will never succumb to manipulation and disinformation, to the abuse of office, to the undermining of democratic institutions, or to the threat of violence and insurrection .We are in a fight for the soul of the African National Congress and we will not back down for fighting to ensure that the ANC is revived. We are also in a fight for the survival of our democracy.We are in the fight for the survival for our way of life, our way of doing things. We are in a fight for the well-being of our people and the progress of our nation. As we confront the challenges of the present, we would do well to recall the message of President Oliver Tambo to the 7th Congress of the South African Communist Party in April 1989, when he said:
“Let us consolidate and strengthen our alliance and advance in concert. Let us remain vigilant and watch out for those forces who never leave the boardrooms where they studiously plot our undoing. Our victories are many and significant, but now, more than ever before, we need to defend them in order to secure our offensive and ensure our advance to the victory of our revolution.” In the battles that must be fought – against poverty and inequality, against violence and crime, against greed and corruption – we will not submit, we will not relentand we will never give in. We will remain true to our values, we will remain devoted to our mission, we will remain committed to the people of this country – and I know that we shall prevail.
As a Congress, as you go on to elect your new leaders, I wish you well, I wish you strength but above all I wish you clarity. We rely on the South African Communist Party to be the intellectual reservoir of our movement, to come up with ideas, to be innovative, to put forward political perspectives and analyses that will help guide our movement going forward.
I thank you.