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DEADWOOD: MINISTERS OR POLICIES, OR BOTH? SAFTU’s SUGGESTED EDITS FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS ON THE 5 AUGUST 2021 CABINET RESHUFFLE: WHAT RAMAPHOSA SHOULD HAVE TOLD THE NATION

Dear South Africans

Our country is going through tremendous challenges as a result of both the apartheid inheritance and then three decades of adherence to neoliberalism – starting with the National Party regime in the early 1990s – and in recent months, of suffering caused by the austerity programme we tried to implement.

Our hope had been that a trickle-down approach would address catastrophic levels of poverty, unemployment, inequality, and corruption!

But as you know, dear compatriots, our country under our collective leadership holds the number one position in the world when it comes to inequality, and among industrial countries we have the worst unemployment including youth unemployment.

Current levels of poverty reach around two thirds of the citizenry and have made us the protest capital of the world. Recent looting sprees undermined the struggle against poverty, and yet our country’s wealth of at least R35 trillion in mineral resources rank our state among the handful of wealthiest in the world by the IMF’s 2018 Fiscal Monitor.

Our criminal justice system has crumbled. Our nation is at war with itself. This is partly as a result of the unacceptable series of recessions which began shortly after I took power in 2018, and which correspond to worsening desperation and crime.

In our country, 58 corpses are on average picked up daily in our streets. Yet our conviction rate for crimes is at all-time low rate of 15%. Our intelligence capacity has been ravaged by internal factional manoeuvres, as exposed by Dr Sydney Mufamadi’s high level panel. We are announcing a wholesale change to the security cluster to address this crisis!

New trajectory

Because of these contradictions, the powder keg blew up last month. So, we have decided to put an end to our denialism and to act solely in the best interests of our country! For too long the poor have been neglected by our government in favour of big capital.

We will implement the Freedom Charter in particular its thus-far unattended-to economic demands:

“The People Shall Share in the Country’s Wealth! The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people. The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole. All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people.”

We are announcing the following three-point programme!

1. We are changing our failed economic policies for a more aggressive and radical programme that will forever change apartheid-capitalism’s dysfunctional power relations! We will overhaul our economic policies so that they are based solely on meeting the basic needs of our people! Our people need decent jobs that will pay a living wage as part of a deliberate strategy to end poverty and inequality! We will accordingly change our fiscal and monetary policies to support robust efforts to boost the economy, not strangle it, and to industrialise and rebuild our manufacturing sector!

2. Our social policy will be generous, ensuring everyone has a Basic Income Grant to end poverty! We will now focus on building and transforming our education and healthcare! We will finally give priority to reversing the appalling quality of public schooling including basic infrastructure backlogs. As the pandemic continues, we recognise the urgent need for smaller class sizes, more teachers, and more classrooms to achieve social distancing. And we will be providing healthcare finance through the long-delayed National Health Insurance.

3. We will rebuild our towns and cities, finally achieving the land reform that is overdue, while eliminating apartheid spatial development patterns, which the real estate market and previous housing policy have worsened! We will rebuild the railway network and extend it to all residential areas and between cities and rural areas so that the historic demand for safe, accessible, reliable, and affordable public transport system is realised, and to lower urban traffic congestion and CO2 emissions. We will make good quality busses publicly owned, while regulating and providing subsidies to the taxi industry!

On cabinet reshuffle and ANC policy

Instead of moving deadwood from one portfolio to another, we will reduce the executive by half and cut all the deputy minister positions in line with our commitment to release resources to address the principal challenge of unemployment!

We will fill all vacancies and work to change the culture of arrogance evident in some of our ministries and among some public servants so that the spirit of Batho Pele is realised!

Our new Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, was responsible for Economic Transformation in the African National Congress. In May 2020 he shepherded a programme with this mandate:

“Our Plan for Reconstruction and recovery must be treated like that of a post-War reconstruction situation… ‘We must do whatever it takes’ to ensure that we limit the damage to our economy, society and people, and get our economy back onto a path of recovery.”

But the prior Minister of Finance listened carefully to credit ratings agencies, so the R500 billion fiscal stimulus policy we thought we had approved at that time, was in fact sabotaged from the outset, with less than a fifth spent.

Therefore, we will now finally embark on the projects that Minister Godongwana laid out in May 2020, which have been largely ignored since then. Those projects were based on different values, including economic localisation, transformation, industrialisation, investment in the Second Economy and job creation. So, to that end, we recommit to the ANC Economic Transformation agenda as spelled out by Cde Godongwana in May 2020:

  • A programme to expand social and economic infrastructure
  • A programme of investment to improve the performance of network industries
  • Policies to strengthen trade and investment linkages with other countries across the African continent
  • Skills development to ensure that we have the right know how for capable private and public sector activity
  • Social compacting to achieve ensure buy in and compromises by all
  • Policies to ensure that the programme is sufficiently financed and is financially sustainable
  • Capable and developmental state is required to execute the programme of reconstruction

Indeed, what the ANC document prepared by Cde Godongwana promised is something we will now finally implement, harking back to the 1994 Reconstruction and Development Programme:

“The insight of the RDP was to bring inclusive growth through the structural transformation of the South African economy, through urban expansion and renewal and through providing infrastructure and services to historically excluded communities in rural and urban areas.”

To accomplish a revitalisation of the cities, towns and villages across our country, it has become apparent that an often-corrupt middle-man in provincial government must be evicted. So as to consolidate the capacities of municipalities and central government, I will seek an immediate constitutional amendment in Parliament that abolishes the provinces as a sphere of government. This will ensure more resources for local-level administration, by massive savings we will gain by removing provincial capacities.

We hereby commit to the Freedom Charter, RDP and Constitutional socio-economic rights clauses, in a manner prior ANC government had been forced to neglect by the adverse balance of forces both internal and international. Now that we have been awakened by the terrible events of July 2021 in which the oft-warned powder keg exploded in many of our KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng townships and cities, we will earnestly make a fresh start.

On April 21, 2020, in the first of my family meetings after the Covid-19 Stage 5 lockdown was imposed, I made these commitments:

“Our economic strategy going forward will require a new social compact among all role players business, labour, community and government to restructure the economy and achieve inclusive growth. We will forge a compact for radical economic transformation that ensures that advances the economic position of women, youth and persons with disabilities, and that makes our cities, towns, villages and rural areas vibrant centres of economic activity.”

It has taken me more than 15 months of failed stimulus due to the biases in Treasury and other agencies that we inherited from the neoliberal era. It is finally time to reverse these and make good on our traditional commitments as a liberation movement: a better life for all!

On the Minister of Health’s Digital Vibes scandal

I have fired Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize to communicate a message that there will be no more tolerance for corruption. Ministers and senior government officials engaged in corruption ought to be fired, rather than given a respectful exit through resignations. This is primarily because acts of corruption paralyse service delivery, and disadvantage poor people who rely on public services.

I am subjecting all my Ministers to a lifestyle audit to ensure that no one lives a life of luxury beyond the legal means. In addition, I have instructed the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to launch investigations into all previous allegations of corruption that have been made against certain Ministers.

In the same manner, I will subject myself to an investigation on whether the companies I have directed as executive or non-executive members of their boards had been involved in illicit financial flows, including Lonmin, MTN and Shanduka. I will also release my sealed bank statements for the CR17 campaigns to demonstrate my commitment to transparency, so that those who contributed do not believe they can exert influence in secrecy. Those who were my opponents in the ANC leadership bid towards Nasrec must also do the same. South Africa’s corporate corruption still shames, as PwC ranks our capitalist class among the top three in “economic crime” in biannual surveys for the past 15 years, so if corporations now believe they can reverse these measures through the kinds of influence – and with a lack of prosecution – that they enjoyed in the past, let this mid-2021 crisis in our economy and society ring the clearest warning bell possible: we dare not go back to the old habits of crony capitalism.