Mathews Phosa

The Sunday Independent - - DISPATCHES -

THEY say the road to hell is paved with good in­ten­tions. So is the road to sound lead­er­ship and a democ­racy that man­i­fests its set-out ide­olo­gies. In pur­suit of this, there of­ten needs to be a call and an illustration of where the flaws are, where the fail­ings have been and a roadmap point­ing to the pot­holes of temp­ta­tion and poor judge­ment that should be driven around to keep a steady path.

How­ever, the by-prod­uct of hold­ing the cur­rent ANC lead­er­ship ac­count­able and tak­ing them to task on poor de­ci­sions nat­u­rally gives the im­pres­sion that your only po­lit­i­cal case to re­form is an at­tack­ing nar­ra­tive and not a proac­tive one.

The mis­take is un­der­stand­able, the faults have been plenty.

The jour­ney that set me out to con­test the ANC lead­er­ship was a move of con­science and a deep aware­ness of the prin­ci­ples of lead­er­ship and Ubuntu in which the fallen com­rades of the party were an­chored.

The ANC has be­come a shadow of its former glory; the scarcity of virtue and pol­icy pur­suits that put peo­ple first has led to a moral de­cay in the party and a com­plete break­down of a trust­ing re­la­tion­ship.

It may not be pos­si­ble to res­ur­rect the ANC of Nel­son Man­dela and Oliver Tambo. We are a dif­fer­ent peo­ple to­day, in a more com­plex so­ci­ety that in­ter­ro­gates dif­fer­ent needs, but the fun­da­men­tals have re­mained the same. The head­line top­ics of trans­for­ma­tion in the new ANC need to be a ro­bust econ­omy that el­e­vates South Africa from the “devel­op­ing coun­try” plateau.

The rhetor­i­cal ques­tion to this ideal is the all-im­por­tant “How?”

We must take lessons from suc­cess sto­ries around the world: the ed­u­ca­tion poli­cies of 1960s Cuba, the so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment poli­cies of places like Sin­ga­pore; the strengths of the democ­ra­cies of Europe; the cul­tures of our an­ces­tors; and the wis­dom of our po­lit­i­cal el­ders. Fis­cal pol­icy is not ne­go­tiable. Fis­cal and in­sti­tu­tional sta­bil­ity is not ne­go­tiable if we are to bridge the gap be­tween the rich and poor. This is not a surge of in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion. Hence, the pop­u­larly ac­claimed term of Rad­i­cal Eco­nomic Trans­for­ma­tion is con­fus­ing be­cause ac­tu­ally it is sus­tain­able eco­nomic and in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment we should be look­ing to­wards.

The time has come where we should start im­ple­ment­ing re­forms such as re-engi­neer­ing the labour mar­kets to en­sure com­pe­ti­tion and dra­mat­i­cally en­hanced ac­cess to skills; crit­i­cally eval­u­at­ing pub­lic sec­tor ef­fi­cien­cies; and re­duc­ing the size and im­pact that the cost of pub­lic sec­tor wages has on the bud­gets of the three tiers of our govern­ment. We need a smaller govern­ment to cre­ate big­ger wealth par­tic­i­pa­tion.

We must eval­u­ate all our sta­te­owned en­ter­prises, turn­ing around those that we need for as­sist­ing our econ­omy and so­ci­ety to de­velop and grow and, where nec­es­sary, clos­ing the doors of those cor­rupt in­sti­tu­tions that are rob­bing us of our scarce re­sources.

We must fun­da­men­tally re­form the ed­u­ca­tion and health-care sys­tems to en­sure that we have an ed­u­cated and healthy labour force, aligned with the needs of our econ­omy; and crit­i­cally eval­u­ate all ex­pen­di­ture in our na­tional, pro­vin­cial and lo­cal govern­ment bud­gets, re­mov­ing ex­pen­di­ture on items that are not in the na­tional in­ter­est.

With our na­tional debt, prob­a­bly in the or­der of 60% of our an­nual GDP if we add lo­cal govern­ment and state-owned en­ter­prise debt and guar­an­tees to the na­tional debt, we ex­ceeded the magic num­ber of 40% of GDP a long time ago. We need a good strong and grow­ing econ­omy – a 6% real growth in our an­nual GDP is not far-fetched – to al­low for for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment in our econ­omy. To achieve this, a re­struc­tur­ing of our econ­omy away from com­modi­ties, and there­fore min­ing, must be­come a pri­or­ity with our pol­icy mak­ers.

To achieve the South Africa we de­serve, we need po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity and po­lit­i­cal cer­tainty. When I speak to for­eign in­vestors, they con­sis­tently tell me that po­lit­i­cal risk is the big­gest prob­lem. They also tell me that pol­icy un­cer­tainty, an out­come of po­lit­i­cal turmoil, pre­cludes many funds from even con­sid­er­ing South Africa in its in­vest­ment port­fo­lios, let alone buy­ing South African stock to hold.

The num­ber one threat to these as­pi­ra­tions and democ­ra­cyled ini­tia­tives is the poi­son of cor­rup­tion. This leads to eco­nomic growth and de­vel­op­ment play­ing sec­ond fid­dle to in­tense greed, nepo­tism and de­ceit­ful in­di­vid­ual en­rich­ment.

It is some­thing that has blown over to South Africa since we started to court our new In­dian friends. It has be­come a tor­nado of loot­ing that will leave de­struc­tion and un­told hard­ships in its path.

We all need to rebel against cor­rup­tion in the party first, be­cause once we clean the party, we can clean the govern­ment.

If I were ever priv­i­leged enough to be the pres­i­dent, all those cor­rupt in­di­vid­u­als would be put in jail.

They would be in­ves­ti­gated and pros­e­cuted if crim­i­nal ev­i­dence is found. It is un­couth to smile with thieves. We can­not claim cor­rup­tion as a vice of col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity, when we can sift out the bad seeds.

The ANC has ded­i­cated 2017 to its former pres­i­dent, Oliver Tambo, who would have turned 100 years old in this year. In re­mem­brance of this great revo­lu­tion­ary, we need to be stim­u­lated by more than sen­ti­ment and nos­tal­gia. We need to write a new nar­ra­tive, where we are hon­est and bru­tal about where we are and how we got here, a nar­ra­tive that is clin­i­cal and ab­so­lute in so­lu­tion­find­ing.

Skilled politi­cians are no longer wel­come in the ANC be­cause they have strict val­ues, they still be­lieve in the prin­ci­ples of the Free­dom Char­ter and they be­lieve that we are one na­tion, ir­re­spec­tive of colour.

One can only hope for a sober­ing in con­science amongst the ANC mem­bers, for they have the power and the abil­ity to re­store the or­gan­i­sa­tion that de­liv­ered South Africa its free­dom. A na­tion’s po­ten­tial never sub­sides; it only needs to be reignited by great men and women who are tire­less in the pur­suit of right­eous­ness.

I strive to be counted among these men and women to make a dif­fer­ence, big or small, but ul­ti­mately to put the peo­ple first so they can see the glory of spilled blood.

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