As the African National Congress (ANC) and government call for radical economic transformation, land remains a key element in attaining that goal. ANC chief whip of Parliament Jackson Mthembu said the land was needed to build the necessary industries that will drive that transformation. He further admitted that the current land restitution process has failed and that it is now time for change.
"You can't talk about transforming the economy of the country when the very people who are supposed to be an active part of that economy have no land. Where will you build these industries? We have been talking about land restitution for some time and we have not done well. We need quantified progress of land restitution to our people," he said.
Mthembu said the current situation of the township economy does not bode well for the country. He said the township economies are controlled by foreigners who have taken over the shops that were once in the hands of South Africans.
"Plans are afoot to restore that economic capability to give residents control of it," Mthembu added.
"We have to ask how we invest in township economies as a state? How do we come up with a plan that invests in township economies? The same would apply to rural economies. You have an influx of entrepreneurs from all over the world and those who own the majority economy of South Africa are planted there through malls. How do we ensure that the economy of the rural economy also resides there? We are clear that these things can't happen through decree, you must put money for them to happen," he said.
Mthembu said budding entrepreneurs need to be given spaces within the malls and infrastructure that is being constructed in rural communities and that this space must come from government. He added that government needs to start walking the talk when it comes to backing small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs).
"Government has always said there must be a 30 percent set aside for black SMMEs in government procurements. Do we have evidence that the 30 percent has been set aside? I can assure you that so far we have not seen much evidence. We are saying to the president, let's come up with a plan to provide evidence of this good initiative," he said.
To ensure the livelihoods of SMMEs and the growth of their businesses, Mthembu said that the government must speedily roll out internet connectivity to rural areas and townships. He said plans for broadband rollout should be made public.
"If you don't have internet connection then you can't do business. You must be able to connect with everybody because if you're not, you will be left behind," he said.
As part of this transformation, Mthembu believes that the banking sector also needs to make provision for the inclusion of black people — in particular black entrepreneurs. Mthembu said the establishment of a Post Bank will disrupt the status quo and bring in those living in the rural areas. He believes that the practical possibility of this is enhanced within the existing national infrastructure of the Post Office.
"Establish a Post Bank so that it will bank the un-banked [sic]. Others in the rural areas have nowhere to put their money for investment, create banks in rural areas. You have four major banks in the country, transform the financial sector. We need a plan to open up all the sectors of the economy to blacks," he said.
The transformation of the economy will require the government to have enough capacity to be able to deal with different needs as they arise. Mthembu said the state would have to indicate whether or not it has that capacity, but elaborated that there was no evidence of this capacity as yet.
"If government does have the capacity, what is the capacitation of the government? What is the plan that we need to put in place? We have said for you to be a developmental state, you need to have that capacity. Can we look and drill down on what are the capacitation needs are there in government? Various spheres of government must be able to transform the economy properly in the interest of our people. If they don't have the capacity, what will they do to acquire that capacity?" he said