POLITICS

Ramaphosa Makes His Case For Radical Economic Transformation -- And People Love It

This could be the most stately -- and inspiring -- speech given by the deputy president.

21/06/2017 07:44 SAST | Updated 21/06/2017 08:23 SAST

ANAYSIS

The term Radical Economic Transformation has recently been accentuated in political circles -- it has been a lot of "we are going to do this" and "we are going to do that". But the why and how has mostly gone unexplained -- until now.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa spent an hour on Tuesday unpacking the concept while speaking to guests at the Gordon Institute of Business Science.

The presidential hopeful has seemingly bolstered his campaign around the concept, pushing its perceived ideology of redress, redistribution and equality -- which are aspects that will favour well in his political crusade ahead of the ANC's national conference in December.

In his public appearances thus far, Ramaphosa has made it a point to address issues which widely affect the ANC -- such as uncertainties around economic transformation, corruption and state capture, a dwindling public image and cracks within the alliance.

While attempting to mend the public image of his party, by speaking the language of transformation and continuously assuring South Africans that all is well, Ramaphosa is molding his own image as a leader.

In his speech, he said the call for economic transformation has come about as result of the exclusion of the majority of South Africans from participating and enjoying the wealth of the country.

"Apartheid colonialism wreaked havoc on many South Africans, not only through the denial of democracy, but also through the dispossession of the majority of South Africans. Given the extent of dispossession, discrimination and exploitation that ensued, the call for the people to share in the wealth of the country as set out in the Freedom Charter, was essentially a call for [radical economic transformation]," Ramaphosa said.

He went on to describe how this dispossession brought about "grinding poverty" and destroyed the "generational asset transmission" in black households.

Ramaphosa said at the ANC's Mangaung Conference in 2012, the party recognised that political freedom had been achieved and the priority now was to pursue economic freedom -- and RET indicates a new phase of an accelerated implementation of the long-standing economic policy positions of government.

To see RET fulfilled, Ramaphosa said government can look towards mending its procurement methods, "cranking up" the industrialisation of South Africa, "speeding ahead" on developing black industry in sectors like agriculture and mining and expediting skills acquisition.

"It is not smash and grab. It is not a violent revolution. It is policy positioning," Ramaphosa said.

After his speech, the deputy president tackled current issues facing the country like the controversy surrounding the amended Mining Charter, corruption, foreign investment and the finances of state-owned enterprises.

In a nutshell, he said there is a "misalignment" in terms of the consultation process for the Mining Charter; that South Africa needs to make itself more attractive to foreign investors and that government is "working hard" to eradicate corruption. He also said government will be focused, "almost business-like", on SOEs.

Although he is not mandated to give too much away on these issues, Ramaphosa remained confident in his attempts to assure the public that government has a grasp on these matters.

"We now know what we are dealing with. There's nothing as good as having a diagnostic analysis, we know what the ailments are and we now have to get the tools to address all these challenges," Ramaphosa said.

He compared South Africa to an airplane throughout the discussion, saying there is never a doubt that the pilot will reach his destination. It's just that there is a bit of turbulence right now.

Interestingly, Gibs' Dean Nicola Kleyn asked who was piloting this plane.

Ramaphosa's response was telling.

"You will remember in 'Sully' [the movie], when the plane hit those birds, he had a copilot. The copilot was flying, then he turned around and said 'it's my plane now'."