OPENING ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA TO THE 6th ANC POLICY CONFERENCE
National Chairperson Cde Gwede Mantashe,
Deputy President Cde David Mabuza,
Treasurer General Cde Paul Mashatile,
Former President Cde Thabo Mbeki,
Former Deputy President Cde Kgalema Motlanthe,
Members of the National Executive Committee,
Leadership of the ANC Women’s League, Veterans League and Youth League,
Leadership of the Alliance and broader democratic movement,
Stalwarts and Veterans,
Less than two weeks have passed since we laid to eternal rest the Deputy Secretary General of our movement, Comrade Yasmin ‘Jessie’ Duarte.
We once again bow our heads in sorrow and respect at the passing of such a great leader of our movement and our people.
As we undertake the important work of this Conference, let us apply ourselves with the humility, the dignity and the determination of our beloved DSG.
Let us honour her life and her contribution through our commitment to achieve the free, united and equal South Africa to which she dedicated her life.
This 6th National Policy Conference takes place in the year that we have declared ‘The Year of Unity and Renewal to Defend and Advance South Africa’s Democratic Gains’.
This Conference is held in compliance with the ANC Constitution, which says that “the NEC may convene a Policy Conference, as a recommendation-making body on any matter of policy, whenever it deems it necessary, but the NEC shall convene a National Policy Conference at least six months before the National Conference to review policies of the ANC and to recommend any new or to amend any present policy for consideration by the National Conference”.
This Policy Conference was supposed to be preceded by the National General Council, for which our Constitution provides.
The COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible for us not only to hold the NGC, but for the ANC to function as it should, which negatively affected the strength of our various structures.
Notwithstanding a number of challenges, including the lack of sufficient resources to hold a Policy Conference of the size to which we are accustomed, we are nonetheless gathered here to discuss critical issues that concern the execution of the National Democratic Revolution.
This in many ways is a defining moment for the African National Congress and for our country.
Our deliberations over the next few days, the resolutions we will adopt at our 55th National Conference, and the actions that we then take, will determine the fate of our movement and indeed the direction of our country.
The delegates to this Policy Conference carry with them the views of ANC branches and other structures on the most critical issues facing our country today.
They carry the responsibility to shape policy proposals that will deepen the renewal of our movement and hasten the transformation of our society.
As delegates to this Conference you bring here the outcomes of the more than 3,200 branch meetings you held in preparation for this Conference.
The proposals we will deal with here at this conference were discussed at some 40 regional conferences, 6 provincial conferences, and Provincial General Councils that were called to discuss the proposed policies that will be recommended to our 55th National Conference in December.
These processes show the depth and the robustness of our organisation’s democratic culture.
This Policy Conference should be seen as a festival of ideas, where the ANC lives up to its role as the leader of society by developing policies that relate to the lived experience of our people where they live to shape the trajectory of our country.
We have exhibited revolutionary discipline in our discussions and our exchanges at branch, regional and provincial level in preparation for this conference.
This should underpin our approach to discussions and exchanges at this conference.
Many in the media expect this to be a conference where we will fight amongst ourselves and differ widely on a variety of matters of politics and ideology.
We will demonstrate, in accordance with ANC tradition, that where we might have different views and approaches on various matters, we are always able to build consensus and emerge with coherent policy positions.
This conference needs to send a clear and positive message about our determination to address the challenges that face our people and country.
The National Democratic Revolution currently faces a number of challenges and perils.
Our movement, the ANC, has been weakened on a number of fronts.
The weakened state of our branches has increased the distance between the ANC and our people.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused untold damage to our economy and society, affecting every part of the world and the way we all live.
The pandemic – together with state capture, service delivery failures and energy insecurity – have contributed to the deepening of poverty, unemployment and inequality in our country.
And now, our people are faced with immediate challenges such as a huge increase in the cost of living brought about by international events that are beyond our control.
We have seen a rise in violent crime, including the recent spate of shootings in public spaces, and criminal syndicates targeting our economic infrastructure and business operations.
Our struggle to overcome the devastating economic and social legacy of apartheid and colonialism – a struggle in which much progress has been made – has been set back many years by these events.
Despite the severe challenges we now confront, we have the ability, as the African National Congress, to turn things around.
We should recall what President Oliver Reginald Tambo said, reflecting on the adversity that our movement has faced. He said:
“We did not tear ourselves apart because of lack of progress at times. We were always ready to accept our mistakes and to correct them. Above all we succeeded to foster and defend the unity of the ANC and the unity of our people in general. Even in bleak moments, we were never in doubt regarding the winning of freedom. We have never been in doubt that the people’s cause shall triumph.”
The future of the National Democratic Revolution will depend on the decisions and actions we take in this Conference year.
The future of the NDR will also depend on whether we are able to accept our mistakes and correct them.
Above all, it will depend on the unity of the African National Congress.
We are therefore called upon to complete the fundamental renewal and rebuilding of the ANC.
We are also called upon to end corruption, strengthen the state at all levels, grow the economy and create jobs.
The central, defining task of this 6th National Policy Conference is to lay the basis for the restoration of the ANC and the National Democratic Revolution.
To fulfil these tasks, we need to understand the moment we are in.
It is nearly 30 years since we achieved the democratic breakthrough of 1994.
Since then, as a country, we have made important progress in giving effect to the vision of our guiding lodestar document, the Freedom Charter.
While this Conference must recognise and detail the progress we have made, its central purpose is to determine how we can do better and what we must do differently.
It must outline those measures we must undertake to make a dramatic and lasting change in the lives of our people.
Through our Constitution, we have affirmed the fundamental principle that South Africa belongs to all who live in it and that the authority of government must be based on the will of the people.
We have removed many discriminatory and exploitative practices of the past, enacted many of the rights demanded in the Freedom Charter and put in place policies and programmes to meet the basic needs of all South Africans.
But while South Africans have equal rights, we need to deepen, extend and broaden these rights and improve the access of our people to courts, the institutions of state, schools, hospitals and other public facilities.
Since the advent of democracy, government has transferred over 4 million hectares of land through restitution and over 5 million hectares through redistribution, accounting for nearly 11% of commercial farm land.
Laws have been put in place to provide security of tenure for labour tenants and to prevent arbitrary removals, and government has several support programmes in place for emerging farmers.
Yet, we are still far from where we need to be.
We need to accelerate the distribution of land to all those who work it and all those who need it, and we need to accompany the provision of land with sustainable and effective forms of support.
Despite the setback to our efforts to amend Section 25 of the Constitution, we will continue to pursue all available options, including through legislation like the Expropriation Bill, to implement the resolution of our 54th National Conference on land redistribution without compensation.
We see this as just one of the instruments we have to drive meaningful land reform, not only to correct a historical injustice. It behoves on us to use our land more effectively for growth and transformation.
We remain steadfast in protecting the separation of powers between the executive, legislature and the judiciary.
A key cornerstone of any democracy is an effective, independent, impartial and accessible justice system.
We have enshrined in the Constitution the right of workers to form and belong to trade unions.
The ANC has put in place a range of policy interventions, which have been turned into laws such as the Labour Relations Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, the Employment Equity Act and other mechanisms to protect workers’ rights and to bring about equality in the workplace.
A national minimum wage has been introduced, in furtherance of the demand in the Freedom Charter, to address the huge wage gap in our economy.
We have put in place a comprehensive and integrated education system.
Access to primary education is universal for every single young person.
Through NSFAS, government provides financial support to students from poor and working class backgrounds for tertiary study.
In the past 28 years we have made unprecedented progress in delivering water, electricity, sanitation and refuse removal to millions who were denied these services.
Children under the age of six, pregnant women and the indigent are entitled to free medical care at public health facilities. The ANC government also provides nutrition at public schools.
The National Health Insurance is being introduced to ensure that everyone has access to quality health care regardless of their ability to pay.
Despite opposition from a number of quarters there is now broad acceptance for the implementation of the NHI.
Almost 46% of South Africans, including the elderly, children and persons with disabilities, receive social grants.
South Africa is an active member of the Southern African Development Community, African Union, United Nations, BRICS, G20 and many other international organisations.
South Africa has been involved in peace initiatives and peace-keeping missions across the African continent.
We continue to campaign for reform of the UN, WTO and other multilateral bodies to ensure that they are more inclusive and responsive to the needs of developing economies.
We continue to mobilise for the right to self-determination for the people of Palestine and Western Sahara.
Despite progress in these and a number of other areas our greatest challenge over the years of our democracy has been to give effect to the demand of the Freedom Charter that ‘The People Shall Share in the Country’s Wealth’.
It is undeniably true that, when compared to the apartheid years, the overwhelming majority of our people live today in conditions that are mostly improved.
More people have access to housing and basic services, more households have been electrified, there have been enormous advances in health care and education and economic opportunities have been opened to millions of black and women South Africans.
We have competition policies and other measures in place to tackle the concentration of ownership and market dominance, and we have a range of measures to support emerging industrialists and other businesses.
We cannot accept that the ownership and control of the economy remains in the hands of the few. Not only is this situation fundamentally unjust, but it stifles the growth and development of our economy.
Our policies on broad-based black economic empowerment, preferential procurement and employment equity have done much to begin to change the racial and gender composition of our economy.
However, as with land reform, we are still very far from where we need to be.
We still have much work to do to overcome the challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality.
The glaring reality is that there are nearly 12 million South Africans of working age who are unemployed, including discouraged work-seekers.
Unemployment not only deepens poverty and inequality, but it also contributes to several other social ills, such as crime, substance abuse and other destructive behaviour.
Youth unemployment is our greatest concern.
Two-thirds of the more than one million young people who enter the labour market each year are not being absorbed in any form of employment, education or training.
The number of work-seekers is growing significantly faster than the number of jobs.
With millions of people excluded from the productive economy, and despite significant progress in expanding the social safety net and increasing the reach of basic services, poverty has increased.
Almost one-in-five households reported going hungry on a regular basis during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since we last met, at the 54th National Conference, our country and the world has endured the most devastating health crisis in more than a century.
This severely damaged our economy and led to the loss of some 2 million jobs within a short space of time as businesses buckled under the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cost in human lives has been staggering.
Over 100,000 South Africans are reported to have died from COVID-19, with many other COVID deaths not reported.
Over the last 18 months, we have focused on accelerating our vaccine rollout.
So far, we have administered 37 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
More than half of all adults in South Africa have been vaccinated and 65 per cent of everyone over 50 is fully vaccinated.
While the economic and social cost of this pandemic has exceeded any natural disaster we have experienced before, South Africans responded to this crisis with determination, resilience, compassion and solidarity.
As a nation, we owe so much to the health care workers and other frontline staff that provided medical care, essential services and security throughout this difficult time.
As an organisation, we must commend our members, who went out into communities to create awareness about the disease and to encourage vaccination.
As we worked to contain the spread of the virus, we also had to take extraordinary measures to support ordinary South Africans, assist businesses in distress and protect people’s livelihoods.
As the ANC government, we put in place a massive social and economic relief package to provide cash directly to the poorest households, to provide wage support to workers and to provide various forms of relief to struggling businesses.
A total of 18 million people, or close to one-third of the population, received additional grant payments through these relief measures.
More than 5.7 million workers received wage support through the special UIF scheme.
Over R70 billion in tax relief was extended to businesses in distress, around 13,000 businesses were helped through the loan guarantee scheme, and various forms of support and relief were provided to thousands of small- and medium-sized businesses.
Had it not been for these interventions, the impact of the pandemic on businesses, workers and families would have been even worse.
In October 2020, we introduced the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan to restore the economy in the wake of the pandemic.
The ANC and its Alliance partners played a key role in developing the framework for the recovery, which was developed further based on contributions from social partners in NEDLAC.
As we continue to implement the plan, we have seen signs of recovery in the economy.
The growth experienced in recent quarters has brought the economy to pre-pandemic levels much sooner than analysts expected.
The most recent figures show that the number of unemployed people in the country dropped in the first three months of 2022.
This translates to 370,000 jobs created between the last quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of this year.
As we meet here, we need to recognise that our recovery remains fragile, and we should expect that growth and employment will be affected by global instability, rising fuel and food costs, and the recent load shedding.
Despite the pandemic, we have been able to mobilise significant investment commitments in pursuit of the target we set in 2018 to raise R1.2 trillion over five years.
The 4th South Africa Investment Conference, which was held in March, raised investment pledges to the value of R332 billion.
This brings the total value of investment commitments to over R1.1 trillion.
Of the committed investments, around R330 billion has already flowed into the economy.
This investment drive is supported by efforts to improve the overall business operating environment and to improve our country’s competitiveness as an investment destination.
Earlier this, for example, government introduced the bounce-back loan scheme, which gives additional funding to businesses.
In March, the employee tax incentive was expanded to make it easier for employers to hire more young people.
As part of our drive to create a new generation of black industrialists, last year government approved further funding in new support to about 180 black industrialists in the form of loans and grants.
The Infrastructure Office in the Presidency continues with its work of oversight and coordination over a number of catalytic infrastructure projects.
These include the Welisizwe Rural Bridges Programme, the rural roads programme, social infrastructure, bulk water and others.
To address onerous bureaucracy that impedes business growth, a red tape reduction team is working across government to identify priority interventions and remove obstacles to growth.
An important part of our growth strategy are bold and far-reaching economic reforms.
These reforms aim to achieve an affordable and reliable supply of electricity and ensure efficient freight transport.
They aim to achieve long-term water security, cheaper mobile data for all South Africans and a visa regime that facilitates tourism and investment.
Progress is being made in all these areas.
For example, in March this year, the long-awaited spectrum auction was completed to expand access to the internet and reduce the cost of data.
The revival of the renewable energy programme and the increase in the licensing threshold for embedded generation have opened the door to significant investment in new generation capacity.
Transnet is taking measures to enable private rail operators access to some of the country’s freight lines and to mobilise investment in our ports. This initiative is aimed at addressing Transnet’s investment challenges.
This will also enable greater efficiency and support our export industries.
In another example of progress, the backlog of water use license applications has been cleared, and the turnaround time has been significantly reduced.
Earlier this week, government announced additional measures to tackle the electricity crisis and end load shedding for good.
These measures will help to fix Eskom and improve the availability of existing supply, accelerate investment by Eskom and private operators in generation capacity, accelerate procurement of new capacity from renewables, gas and battery storage, and enable businesses and households to invest in rooftop solar.
Together, these reforms will expand the capacity of our economic infrastructure, reduce the cost of doing business and make our economy more competitive.
As these reforms are implemented, as new opportunities arise, we call on the private sector to undertake its own investment drive – to match the commitment of government with a similar commitment to develop the productive capacity of our economy.
During the past two years, we have overseen an expansion of public employment that is unprecedented in speed, scale and innovation.
This has been achieved through the Presidential Employment Stimulus, which has created 879,000 opportunities.
Of the participants in the programme, 84 per cent are youth and 62 per cent are women.
There is no greater crisis facing our country, our continent and the world than climate change.
The world needs to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions if we are to prevent catastrophic destruction and widespread suffering.
The devastating floods in parts of KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and North West earlier this year have shown how urgent this action is.
As a country, we have started to define a pathway towards a low emissions economy in a way that enables us to industrialise and create jobs.
We need to reduce emissions not only for the sake of the health, well-being and security of our people, but to ensure that our products and services remain competitive in a changing global economy.
A major development in this area is the finalisation of the Just Transition Framework, which will guide our transition to a low-carbon, climate resilient and inclusive society.
We are working with international partners to mobilise climate finance to enable our transition while supporting affected workers and communities.
If we are to turn the climate crisis into an opportunity, we need to construct a new industrial landscape based on environmentally sustainable technology, processes and energy sources.
And we need to ensure that this sustainable economy empowers black South Africans, women and young people.
A significant challenge facing our country today is crime and violence.
Communities across the country live in fear, worried about gangsterism, armed robberies, rape and murder.
Women and children are particularly vulnerable to the violence perpetrated against them by men.
The economy is being held back by damage to infrastructure, extortion at construction sites, corruption and the high cost of securing businesses and insuring assets.
These problems have been made worse by deepening poverty and inequality and by the impact of state capture on law enforcement agencies and security services.
Since the 54th National Conference, we have prioritised building capacity within our law enforcement system.
We have done much to restore the capabilities and credibility of the National Prosecuting Authority, the South African Police Service, the Hawks and the State Security Agency.
We are recruiting significant numbers of new police personnel, strengthening the Public Order Policing Unit and working to re-establish community policing forums.
The SAPS has established multi-disciplinary units to address crimes of economic sabotage and extortion at construction sites by so-called business forums.
A stronger, better capacitated South African Police Service is key to combating crimes of violence against women and children.
As the ANC government, we have passed three new Acts to strengthen the fight against GBV and afford greater protection for survivors.
Yet, if we are to end this scourge, we need a society-wide effort that fights gender-based violence on several fronts.
The development of the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide was therefore a milestone, bringing together all sections of society to undertake this task.
We must commend, in particular, the ANC Women’s League for mobilising communities and being an integral part of the fight against on gender-based violence.
Community based organisations have an important role to play, including in the development and implementation of programmes around GBV, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, mental health, LGBTQI+ advocacy and other issues.
One of the clearest instructions from the 54th National Conference was to end state capture and tackle corruption within our ranks, within government and across society.
Since then, we have taken decisive measures to end state capture, restore state-owned enterprises, rebuild public institutions and enable the criminal justice system to pursue the perpetrators of corruption.
Since then, we have seen important progress by the Hawks, NPA, Special Investigating Unit, Financial Intelligence Centre, SA Revenue Service and others in tackling corruption.
The most significant development in the fight against corruption was the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry on State Capture.
The Commission finalised its work last month and government has embarked on a process to consider all the Commission’s findings and recommendations.
As the ANC, we have consistently maintained that the Commission is a necessary part of the broader social effort to end all forms of state capture and corruption.
We are therefore engaging with the findings and recommendations of the Commission to determine how these can help to enhance the process of fundamental renewal and rebuilding within our movement.
We must ensure that we use the work of the State Capture Commission to make a decisive break with the era of state capture, and that we adopt a comprehensive set of actions to prevent corruption and end state capture.
A necessary condition for the advancement of the National Democratic Revolution is the establishment of a democratic, capable developmental state to drive growth and transformation.
That is why the 54th National Congress directed us to rebuild the public service and the culture of Batho Pele.
This is happening across government departments, in municipalities, state-owned enterprises and other organs of our state.
Public servants are being trained on a range of subjects, including ethical conduct, economic governance and planning.
Government will soon finalise a national framework on the professionalisation of the public sector.
This framework proposes a stronger emphasis on merit-based recruitment and appointments, integrity testing for all recruits to the public service, and curriculum development for ongoing learning of public servants.
Another part of our drive to build a capable developmental state is the District Development Model.
The District Development Model represents a whole of government approach to planning, budgeting and implementation.
It aims to eliminate wastage and duplication of resources and requires leaders and public servants at all levels to work as a single unit within specific districts.
Local government is the sphere of government where the State is at its weakest
Five years ago, in June 2017, eight municipalities were under the administration of national or provincial government.
By June 2021, 23 municipalities were under administration, and by February 2022, this number had further increased to 33 municipalities.
As we have recognised before, many of these challenges arise from poor management of the political-administrative interface.
There is weak oversight, poor accountability and inadequate consequence management systems.
There is a shortage of skilled leadership and management, and widespread fraud and corruption.
This situation has contributed to declining levels of voter participation in elections and diminishing support for the ANC.
This resulted in the loss of several key municipalities in last year’s local elections and the emergence of coalition governments in several places.
Our experience since then has demonstrated that coalition governments are ill-suited to effectively drive development, provide quality services or ensure proper accountability.
As the ANC, we have taken several steps to address these problems.
In preparations for the local government elections, for example, we involved community members in the candidate selection process, so that ANC candidates had the support and confidence of the communities they are expected to serve.
All mayors in ANC-led municipalities underwent a thorough vetting and interview process.
We launched the ANC Local Government Barometer to track whether we are keeping to the commitments that we made in our manifesto and to monitor the effectiveness of councillors.
We amended the Local Government Municipal Structures Act to promote ethical conduct by councillors and impose harsher consequences for wrongdoing.
One of the most significant developments on the African continent since the formation of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963 was the coming into effect of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area in January last year.
This will create a market of 1.2 billion people, which is expected to grow to 2.5 billion by 2050.
By increasing trade among African countries, the AfCFTA will drive production in areas like manufacturing, agro-processing and other activities across the continent.
It will contribute to the growth of the industrial capacity and infrastructure of African countries that are now able to reach a far larger market.
If Africa is to realise the full potential of this development, we will need to bring peace and stability to all parts of the continent. We will need to promote democracy, good governance and the rule of law.
As the ANC, we have continued to engage with fraternal parties on a common approach to peace and development on the continent.
The opportunity presented by the AfCFTA means that we need to intensify our efforts, particularly in the area of economic cooperation.
While South Africa was integrally involved in the operationalisation of the AfCFTA during our term as African Union Chair in 2020, we were also occupied with the coordination of Africa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The continent’s swift and decisive response demonstrated what is possible when African countries work together, under the auspices of the African Union, to confront a common crisis.
Africa was able to mobilise vital medical supplies, vaccines and funding on a continental scale to ensure that no country was left behind.
African countries have worked together with international partners, especially the WHO, to build the continent’s vaccine manufacturing capacity and enhance its health security.
Our task now is to apply these approaches to the other common challenges the continent faces, such as climate change, armed conflict, food insecurity, among others.
While we can point to significant progress on the continent, the broader international environment has deteriorated over the last few years.
As the COVID pandemic took its toll on the global economy, geo-political tensions between the major powers have worsened, threatening the principles of multilateralism and a rules-based world order.
The conflict in Ukraine has deepened the crisis, contributing to rising fuel prices and fears of global food shortages.
These events have demonstrated the weaknesses of international institutions like the United Nations, and have made the case for their reform even stronger.
In the face of these challenges, we need to be more assertive in advocating a global political and economic architecture that is democratic, fair and inclusive, and which prioritises the needs and the interests of the poor.
The fulfilment of the task of fundamental transformation depends on the unity, cohesion and strength of our movement.
The ANC is today at its weakest and its most vulnerable since the advent of democracy.
Our weaknesses are evident in the distrust, disillusionment and frustration that is expressed by many people towards our movement and our government.
They are reflected in our support in the local government elections in November last year, where for the first time, we fell below 50 per cent of the national vote.
Our weaknesses are reflected in many of our branches, which are not involved in the lives of their communities, but are activated only for the purpose of electing delegates for conferences or nominating candidates for public office.
Our weaknesses are evident in the distance between our public representatives and the people they are meant to serve.
Perhaps most strikingly, our weaknesses are evident in the divisions within our ranks.
These are not divisions about policies or ideology, but are driven by the competition for positions, the contestation of structures and the pursuit of access to public resources.
These divisions manifest themselves in patronage, gatekeeping, vote buying and manipulation of organisational processes.
These divisions are driven by corruption and the need by those responsible for corruption to avoid detection and accountability.
The weaknesses in our organisation are felt beyond our structures.
We can see the impact of our divisions and faults in our Alliance partners and formations of the broader democratic movement.
We can see how our divisions have weakened governance in many areas, undermined public institutions and hampered the maintenance of infrastructure and the provision of services.
These were among the challenges identified at the 54th National Congress, and which informed the firm decision of that Conference to embark on a programme of fundamental renewal and rebuilding.
Despite trying circumstances, the ANC is showing signs of renewal and we are continuing to forge unity around several issues.
We have been able to make progress around the process of organisational rebuilding, where our branches were able to hold BGMs in the midst of the pandemic and undertake campaigns in communities.
It is significant that, as we prepared for this Policy Conference, around 4,000 branches held BBGMs and many regions and provinces have held successful conferences.
The Letsema Campaign has seen our members move out of meetings and into the communities.
Letsema is about grounding our movement among the people, ensuring the people can once again trust us to be a champion of the poor and vulnerable, who work with them to improve their lives.
We have also seen progress in rooting out corruption and ill-discipline within our ranks, and beginning the process, difficult as it is, in tackling factionalism.
We have implemented several of the Conference resolutions on corruption and wrongdoing within the ANC.
As we have done this, we have witnessed concerted attempts to sow division and destabilise our organisation by forces intent on pursuing narrow interests.
This has taken many forms, including the distortion of organisational processes, serious acts of social instability and criminality and sustained propaganda campaigns.
This is the work of forces, both within our ranks and outside our movement, that are threatened by the process of renewal and rebuilding.
We have said that the delegates to this Policy Conference carry the weight of history.
That is because from this Conference must emerge policy proposals to put the National Democratic Revolution back on track.
From this Conference must emerge policy proposals that will drive forward the radical economic and social transformation that is required to achieve a better life for all.
Our first task must be to complete the fundamental renewal of the ANC and to reposition it as a united, principled, disciplined popular and effective agent of change.
The renewal of the ANC requires that we build ANC branches as agents of change.
The renewal of our movement must be centred around our branches, our members and the communities that our branches serve.
That is where change will be most visible and meaningful.
Structures must be rooted in their communities and their activities and campaigns must respond to the concerns of the area.
We are already seeing the return of these practices through the Letsema Campaign, which has been taken up by many branches across the country.
The ANC must earn the position of leader of society through its actions.
If the leadership of the ANC is not respected, we cannot say we lead society.
Leadership is earned by showing the people that we respect them, respect the laws of the country and conduct ourselves with humility and integrity.
To renew the ANC, we must end corruption and patronage.
This requires, among other things, that we fully implement the resolutions of our 54th National Conference on dealing with corruption.
On this, there can be no going back. There can be no compromise.
We cannot abandon our principled positions on corruption in pursuit of a false unity.
Our movement must be united around our values and our mission.
It must be united against corruption, against patronage and against factionalism.
The people of South Africa will not forgive us if we abandon the correct positions that we have taken on confronting wrongdoing within our ranks.
History will not forgive us.
As we chart the way forward, we must clarify our positions on the declaration of financial interests by ANC leaders, the conduct of lifestyle audits and our policy on ANC leaders and their family members doing business with the state.
To renew our organisation, we must develop capable and committed cadres.
Recruitment of members must be accompanied by effective induction, political education and the involvement of new members in local programmes that advance the interests of our people.
We must build a more youthful organisation.
The ANC needs to replenish itself, drawing more young people into its ranks and into its leadership structures.
The revival of the ANC Youth League is critical for our movement. We must have a cohort of young people to take over leadership of the movement and country.
At the same time, we must strive for and achieve gender equality.
The ANC needs to address patriarchal attitudes and practices within its structures, and needs to identify and address other social and economic factors that limit women’s participation.
As we look at rebuilding our movement, we must conclude our discussions on the reconfiguration of the Alliance.
This cannot be an abstract discussion, but must be informed by our common responsibility to address the many complex challenges that confront the South African people and the peoples of our continent and the world.
We need to defend and deepen our commitment to non-racialism.
Non-racialism is a fundamental principle of the ANC that lies at the heart of our objective to build a South African nation with a common patriotism and loyalty.
We must build non-racialism with our movement if we are to build in society.
Our second task in advancing the National Democratic Revolution is to accelerate far-reaching economic reforms to stimulate growth and job creation.
Our focus must be on reducing unemployment, which is a necessary condition for economic growth and prosperity
Each person who is unemployed could be contributing productively to the economy, earning an income and consuming goods.
Addressing unemployment and poverty will improve social and political stability, allow individuals to achieve their potential and enable economic growth.
We need to appreciate the extent of the economic crisis that confronts us, and develop policies and programmes that are appropriate to the extraordinary challenges that we face.
Our third task is to build and implement a durable social compact for growth and transformation.
This was a clear directive from the 54th National Conference and was identified in our January 8th Statement as one of the foremost tasks of this year.
We are continuing, despite delays, to make every effort to build a broad social consensus on specific actions to grow the economy and create jobs.
We will not be able to emerge from this crisis unless all parts of society are involved in developing and implementing these actions.
We have several examples in the recent past where we have agreed on common programmes to address common challenges.
These include our response to COVID-19, addressing the crisis at Eskom, tackling gender-based violence, and developing the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.
Our history tells us that we can come together to solve our problems, that we can achieve consensus, and that we can make a difference.
The third task we have is to break the cycle of poverty.
Our immediate task is to relieve the hunger and hardship that many people are faced with because of the COVID pandemic and the rising cost of living.
The extension of the R350 Social Relief of Distress grant beyond the State of Disaster has provide much-needed support at a difficult time.
Other measures, such as the temporary reduction in the fuel levy has limited the impact of rising global fuel prices on consumers and businesses.
Discussions on further measures to contain the effects of rising food and fuel costs are currently underway in Nedlac.
This Policy Conference needs to look beyond these short term measures towards forms of social protection that reach the most vulnerable in society, that are affordable and that are sustainable.
The Conference needs to focus on the work we are doing to develop the skills and capabilities of our people.
It is through a quality education, with appropriate skills and suitable experience, that young people can defy the circumstances of their birth and rise out of the poverty that has been passed down from generation to generation.
It needs to review our progress towards the achievement of universal health coverage, paying particular attention to the implementation of the National Health Insurance and the state of our public health facilities.
We need to focus on land reform as an instrument to create jobs and provide livelihoods, to increase the contribute agriculture to the economy, and to provide people with productive assets that they can use to build a better future.
Our fourth task is to deepen our efforts to empower the women of South Africa and to achieve gender equality in every part of our national life.
A critical part of this work is to advance women’s economic and financial inclusion.
This should be pursued through preferential procurement in both government and the private sector, targeted financial and technical support to women-owned businesses, and rigorous implementation of employment equity plans.
We must remove all the impediments to the development of the girl child, including social attitudes towards domestic responsibilities and access to education and health care.
Our fifth task is to build a capable, ethical, developmental state.
We are painfully aware of the risks inherent in having a state machinery that does not respond effectively to the needs of the citizenry.
It is incontrovertible that this government has begun to make improvements to several state institutions, such as SARS, the NPA and other critical services such as the health and education sectors. We intend to continue these rebuilding efforts.
Committed, diligent, capable and ethical public servants are at the heart of any developmental state. We need to continue with efforts to professionalise the public service to serve citizens with distinction.
Our sixth task is to contribute to peace, stability and development on the African continent.
We must seize the opportunity presented by the Africa Continental Free Trade Area to pursue greater integration at a political, economic and social level between African countries.
We should draw on our country’s experience as Chair of the African Union, particularly in coordinating the response to COVID-19 and in establishing the basis for a new health order in Africa.
We need to strengthen ties with our fellow liberation movements and other parties and formations on the continent, so that we can develop a common approach to the many challenges that confront our people.
We need to intensify our international work more broadly, so that we can play a more meaningful role in seeking the resolution of conflict and in advancing the struggles of oppressed people across the world.
We cannot rest while a part of the African continent – Western Sahara – remains under colonial occupation.
Nor can we accept that occupation and oppression is to be the fate of the Palestinian people into perpetuity.
These are among the struggles that we need to take up with greater vigour if we are to contribute to the building of a better world.
Another task we have is to protect our country and people from COVID-19.
While we have adjusted to a new way of living with the disease, the COVID-19 pandemic is not over.
We are faced with the ever-present threat of the emergence of new variants that are transmitted more easily and cause more severe illness.
If we are to protect our country from a possible resurgence of the virus and the illness and deaths that it could cause – not to mention the economic damage – then we need to ensure that as many South Africans as possible are vaccinated against COVID.
After 18 months of vaccines, we can now clearly see that vaccines are safe, effective and protect people against severe illness and death.
This may not seem a priority now that infections are so low, but mass vaccination is still our most effective defence against the pandemic in the months and years to come.
This 6th Policy Conference has a clear responsibility – to debate and develop policy proposals that can be considered and adopted by our 55th National Conference in December.
But that is not all that we should expect from this Policy Conference.
From this gathering, we need to send out a clear message of intent from our movement.
A clear message that we are committed to the renewal and revitalisation of the African National Congress.
That we will allow nothing and no-one to stand in the way of the restoration of our values and principles and the pursuit of our mission.
A clear message that our foremost priority now is to create jobs for our people, to grow our economy and to tackle poverty and hunger.
From this gathering, we must make a call on all ANC members and leaders to take personal responsibility for rebuilding the ANC and restoring its values.
We must call on all ANC branches, structures, public representatives and deployees to dedicate themselves to the fundamental task of economic and social transformation.
And we must call on broader society to work with the ANC and its Alliance partners to deepen transformation and build a united nation.
Let this 6th Policy Conference provide the direction that our country needs and let it instill the confidence and the hope that our people seek.
I thank you.