Makhulong Stadium, Tembisa
Address by ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at OR Tambo Memorial Lecture, Andrew Mapheto Zone
13 August, 2017
It is an honour to have been invited to reflect on the life of Oliver Tambo in this year of the 100th anniversary of his birth.
This is an opportunity to pay tribute to a great African patriot who dedicated his entire life to the cause of freedom.
As a nation, we owe so much to Oliver Tambo, for having led the ANC over three decades of relentless struggle and for having guided our country towards the achievement of democracy.
He undertook this responsibility without expectation of reward and with little concern for his own health and well-being.
As we mark his centenary, we can declare with confidence that the struggle led by Oliver Tambo was not in vain.
Our democracy is his legacy.
It was thanks to his inspired leadership that we were able to mobilise the world against apartheid and to establish the conditions for a negotiated transition to democracy.
It was thanks to his wisdom and foresight that we were able to produce the constitutional guidelines that would form the foundation of our non-racial and non-sexist democracy.
It was thanks to his political clarity, his humility and his courage that we were able to build the ANC into such a powerful instrument for the liberation of the South African people.
Now, 24 years after we mourned his passing, we can declare with confidence that we have made remarkable progress in building the kind of society to which he dedicated his life.
The institutions of democracy are firmly entrenched.
We have made progress in deracialising our society, in reducing poverty and in improving the lives of millions of people.
But we have not done enough.
As Oliver Tambo would remind us, we cannot claim victory until we have liberated all our people from the ravages of hunger, want and disease.
We cannot claim victory for as long as poverty, homelessness, inequality and unemployment remain embedded in our society.
The question that we must ask ourselves as we commemorate this important centenary is whether we are equipped to decisively tackle these challenges.
Are we capable of fundamentally transforming our society and building a better life for all our people?
Is Oliver Tambo’s legacy safe in our hands?
Oliver Tambo dedicated his life to forging a strong and united ANC.
He was handed responsibility for our movement at a time of despair.
The liberation movements had been declared illegal, our leaders imprisoned or forced into exile and all popular structures destroyed.
Yet, through patient, determined and principled leadership, OR Tambo kept the movement together through dangerous and trying times.
He put every effort into strengthening the movement, and ensuring that it remained united and cohesive.
He did this because he understood that only an ANC that is united, effective and enjoys the support of the people would be able to lead the struggle to transform society.
Oliver Tambo may have departed our world, but this fundamental principle remains unchanged.
Only a strong, united and popular ANC will be able to fundamentally transform our economy to ensure that it benefits all our people.
Only a strong, united and popular ANC will be able to advance the struggle for a new society founded on the principles of non-racialism, non-sexism, equality and democracy.
Consistent with our responsibility to advance the legacy of Oliver Tambo, we must acknowledge that our movement is at its weakest in many decades.
It finds itself divided, vulnerable to factionalism and undermined by corruption and patronage.
Most importantly, there is growing evidence that the ANC is losing the confidence of the people it was established to serve.
Therefore, in this year of Oliver Tambo, the most urgent and important task of our movement is to restore its values, to renew its structures, to unite its leadership and membership, and to build itself as a more effective instrument of transformation.
It needs to act decisively to end corruption and to reverse the corrosive effects of patronage.
If it stands any hope of reviving itself and restoring the confidence of the people, the ANC needs to confront the mounting evidence of state capture.
There is no doubt that state capture is real, it is widespread and it is profoundly damaging to our public institutions, our economy and our movement.
As the National Policy Conference last month recognised, we need to act with urgency and determination to unite, build and renew our movement.
There are a few key tasks that we need to undertake.
The first task is to bring the ANC closer to the people.
Over the last few years, we have seen a social distance develop between the people and their elected representatives.
The scramble within our ranks for positions of power and the access to public resources that they provide has not gone unnoticed by our people.
We need to correct this.
Not only do we need to rid our movement of such practices, but we need to ensure that we are responsive to the needs of the people and accountable for the mandate they have given us.
We should be careful not to dismiss as reactionaries those who march in protest against state capture and corruption.
Certainly, there are forces that are bent on removing the ANC from office and ultimately destroying it, but many of the people who are involved in these protests are genuinely committed to building a united, democratic and equal society.
These are the people the ANC should be drawing towards it.
These are the people whose skills, energies and commitment we should be mobilising in support of the fundamental transformation of our economy and society.
One of Oliver Tambo’s most remarkable talents was his ability to draw people towards the ANC and to deploy them to play meaningful roles in the struggle.
The second urgent task is to empower members of the ANC.
They need to have the space and capacity to determine the direction of the movement.
They need to decide – free from manipulation and coercion – on who should lead the movement.
They need to guide its policies, priorities and programmes informed by the needs and concerns of the communities in which they are located.
This means we must get rid of the gate-keeping, vote buying and undue interference that strips ANC members of their rights, responsibilities and influence.
We need to hand over control of the movement to its members.
The third urgent task is to build branches as sites of social activism.
In many cases, branches of the ANC have become detached from the struggles of ordinary people.
Too many are preoccupied with internal processes.
Too many exist merely to advance one or another factional project.
We must build our branches as vibrant, dynamic places that take up the most pressing social and economic challenges in our communities.
Our branches need to attract the youngest, brightest and most committed activists in society.
People need to see our branches as a place where they can make a real difference.
The fourth task, which underpins all others, is to restore the integrity and revolutionary values of the movement.
We need cadres who are committed to serve no other interest than the interests of the people.
We need cadres who seek no advantage for themselves or their families from the positions they occupy.
We need cadres who safeguard public resources, who work to strengthen democratic institutions and who respect the people.
We undertake these tasks so that we can restore the ability of our movement to fundamentally change the material conditions of our people.
We are working to unite and strengthen the ANC, not only to honour the memory of OR Tambo, but to transform the economy, grow employment, reduce inequality and eradicate poverty.
We undertake these tasks in a challenging economic climate.
From apartheid we inherited an economy with high levels of unemployment and low skills levels.
Our efforts to address these great challenges has been hampered, among other things, by the global economic slowdown, low levels of investment, limited manufacturing capacity and challenges in state-owned enterprises.
We have not stood idly by in the face of these challenges.
Government has been working closely with business and labour to implement practical measures to generate growth and create jobs.
There have been challenges in managing the relationship between the social partners, but there is a shared commitment to advance the interests of the South African people.
There is a strong emphasis in this work on youth employment.
This is the biggest challenge we face, but also our greatest opportunity.
Because we have such a young population, getting young people into the work will significantly increase our economic output and accelerate the growth of our economy.
It will also have the greatest impact on levels of poverty and inequality.
That explains why we are investing so much in education and skills development.
Enrolment in higher education has increased massively over the last two decades.
Our task now is to ensure that we can adequately fund higher education and that it produces the skills that our economy needs.
Alongside our efforts to produce young people with the right skills, we are using various instruments to grow our manufacturing capacity to absorb these skills.
Through our massive infrastructure programme we are seeking not only to stimulate economic activity and meet our people’s needs, but also to expand our industrial sector by procuring goods and services locally.
One of the greatest impediments to the sustained growth of our economy is the continued concentration of ownership and control.
Not only does the economy remain largely in white hands, but there are several sectors in which a few large companies dominate.
We need to address this concentration, not only to deracialise the economy, but also to make our economy more competitive, more dynamic and more attractive to new investment.
We are working to improve the performance of our state owned enterprises, some of which are facing significant financial and governance challenges.
Apart from addressing the specific problems in each state owned enterprise, we are also revising the design of the SOE sector to ensure that they are better coordinated and more effective in meeting their economic and developmental mandates.
We know that in order to create jobs for our people, we need faster growth.
To accelerate growth, we need far higher levels of investment both by the state and, especially, by the private sector.
We therefore need to concern ourselves with the low levels of investor confidence and the effect that ratings downgrades have on the cost of financing investment.
We need to recognise that what we do in the areas of governance and policy have a significant effect on the confidence that investors have in our economy.
It is therefore important that we use the ANC’s 54th National Conference in December to provide policy certainty and a coherent programme for radical economic transformation.
We need to use the conference to give business, labour and the broader society confidence that the African National Congress is capable of managing the economy in the best interests of the nation.
That means that we need to correct the weaknesses within the movement.
We need to draw inspiration and guidance from the life of Oliver Tambo.
We need to restore the values that he embodied.
We need to renew our bond with the people, empower our members and make the ANC a vibrant and dynamic agent of fundamental change.
Let us emerge from the 54th National Conference certain that Oliver Tambo’s legacy – our democracy – is safe in our hands.
I thank you.