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Cachalia: My Week In Parliament And What I Said About Ahmed Kathrada

I praised Kathy's sacrifice and principles in sharp contrast to the politics of patronage that characterises the ANC today.

21/06/2017 12:45 SAST | Updated 21/06/2017 12:45 SAST
Karwai Tang/ WireImage/ Getty Images
Ahmed Kathrada.

As Cape Town settled after a week of storms and welcome rain, parliament soldiered on with its various committees and plenaries addressing issues and legislation against a background of daily Gupta email leaks, increasingly incredulous revelations and brazen responses.

In my committee, Trade and Industry, Minister Davies expanded on his plans and focus on a plethora of proposed actions that can be best described as a heady mix of gift, hope and incentive against an unhelpful setting of a rigid labour regime, restrictive bureaucracy, untold uncertainty and industrial scale graft.

Poor man; underneath that unkempt exterior beats a decent heart whose efforts to pump much-needed blood into the veins of the economy are constantly stymied by actions of the executive he serves. He practically admitted as much.

Still, he plans to create a hundred black industrialists via his developmental state approach that seeks to intervene more directly in the economy to promote the growth of new industries and to reduce the dislocations caused by shifts in investments and profits from old to new industries. This is the domain of industrial policy – a quantum shift from a regulatory state that governs regulatory agencies, empowered to enforce standards of behaviour against market failure.

This harks back to Minister Davies' grounding in communism and has its roots, however watered-down, in Josef Stalin's "great break" in political and economic policy marked by forced collectivisation and breakneck industrialisation. Stalin famously said: "we are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or we shall be crushed." As I recall, the only thing that was crushed was the Soviet Union – by the forces of its own internal contradictions.

Later that evening our portfolio committee was hosted to a dinner at the British High Commission by the new High Commissioner, Nigel Casey. During the course of the elegant meal, we discussed the importance of bilateral trade in a post-Brexit scenario over copious amounts of fine Cape wine. I look forward to further discussions.

It was a day for scoring palpable hits.

In plenary, the Deputy President was clearly irked by my question about the reasons for General Motors exit from South Africa. I quoted GM's own media release which cited the need to find areas for investment where the return on capital was more in line with GM's requirements and expectations.

He, rather disingenuously, accused me of being dishonest in the formulation of my question, but then he must have had other things on his mind, having just sold one of his Ankole bulls for R640,000 – not quite the R20m he bid for a buffalo cow some time ago. Perhaps he will effect the transmission to a more agriculturally-based economy as our manufacturing and industrial economy hits the skids?

The week also saw the delivery of my maiden speech in parliament as part of the Ahmed Kathrada condolence debate. The ANC sat, mostly in silence as I praised Kathy's sacrifice and principles in sharp contrast to the politics of patronage that characterises the ANC today. My own party gave me a standing ovation and I was particularly touched by the IFP's Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who complimented me on my speech, saying that it reminded him of my father in his day.

Our Chief Whip, John Steenhuisen, castigated the ANC for its shoddy attendance in Parliament and the ANC's chief whip, Jackson Mthembu acknowledged the sad veracity of this. It was a day for scoring palpable hits: the Deputy Minister of Mining also conceded that the Mining Charter needed 'more thought'.

One more week and then parliament will be on recess as we attend to constituency work.

In the interim, I'll leave you with a link to my speech.