ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has dedicated his maiden January 8 statement to unity and renewal in the party and alliance, revitalising the economy and fighting state capture and corruption.
Ramaphosa used the platform – which marks the ANC's 106th birthday celebrations and allows the party's National Executive Committee to declare its annual message to party members – seemingly to highlight his goals as ANC president.
Ramaphosa entered the Buffalo City Municipality Stadium in East London to the applause of thousands of ANC supporters. The same could not be said for State president Jacob Zuma.
When ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe announced his arrival, the crowd booed.
After messages of support from the ANC's alliance partners, Cosatu and the South African Communist Party, Ramaphosa took to the podium.
With a brief highlight of the ANC's historical achievements, Ramaphosa turned his focus onto unity and renewal in the organisation – topics he dedicated a substantial amount of time to.
Unity and organisational renewal:
He said the ANC's 54th National Conference in December found that structures in the movement had been weakened and the confidence of South African citizens in the ANC had become "eroded".
"[The conference] recognized that the movement has become deeply divided through factionalism, patronage, corruption and competition for resources...The ANC should embark, with immediate effect, on a far-reaching programme of organizational rebuilding, a process of engendering unity and it should not be unity for unity sake, but it must be unity in action," he said.
"Conference also decided that divisions amongst us must come to an end. The squabbles that have been prevalent in our movement Conference decided should also come to an end... Unity should be our overriding objective."
He said the ANC also decided at the conference to strengthen the alliance.
Ramaphosa said that, guided by the National Development Plan, the ANC is going to restore its focus on building an economy which benefits South Africans as a whole rather than "a few privileged individuals and families".
"Our vision is an economy that encourages and welcomes investment. We must not have an economy that discourages and chases away investors from investing in South Africa," he said.
"We must have an economy that offers policy certainty and addresses barriers that inhibit investment growth and social inclusion. We are determined to build an economy that reverses apartheid injustices and corrects continuing patterns of deprivation and inequality."
He said the ANC will work to eradicate concentration in the ownership of the economy.
"The concentration of ownership of our economy in the hands of a white minority constrains sustainable growth and transformation. We will work to change the ownership structure of our economy through, among other things, ensuring access to, and ownership of, financial institutions by black people, youth and women," he said.
Free higher education and land redistribution
Ramaphosa expressed the ANC's commitment to implementing free higher education and land expropriation without compensation – policies which were decided on at the party's National Conference.
On free education, Ramaphosa said: "This historical decision which vindicates many decades of struggle for free education for the poor will be implemented in a phased approach".
On land redistribution, he said it will be done in a manner that does not impede, but promotes economic development.
There are other ways to look at this too. Renewal will have hard features and symbolic features. All equally important.— Piet Croucamp (@pietcroucamp) January 13, 2018
"We will also need to address the challenge of land in the urban areas...right now in our urban areas there is a shortage of land and our government owns a lot of land through various departments and municipalities...we say we want that land to be released so that our people have the p;ace to build their homes," he said.
State capture and corruption
Ramaphosa also continued his anti-corruption rhetoric, explaining the need to turnaround State-Owned Enterprises and law enforcement agencies.
"We need also to act with urgency and purpose to restore SOEs as drivers of economic growth and development...Many of these enterprises have experienced serious government lapses and poor delivery of their mandate," he said.
"These challenges have been exacerbated by state capture, through which billions of rands have been illegally diverted to individuals."
Ramaphosa: We shall work to restore integrity and credibility of the ANC. Need cadres committed to serve no other interest than interests of the people, who seek no advantage for themselves or their families from positions they occupy, and who safeguard public resources. #ANC106— Ranjeni Munusamy (@RanjeniM) January 13, 2018
He welcomed Zuma's appointment of a judge to head up the judicial commission on inquiry into state capture.
"Corruption and collusion and other criminal activity in the private sector must be fought with equal diligence and determination...Strong and efficient law enforcement agencies are critical to the fight against corruption and crime generally...They must act without favour, without prejudice, in the interests our people, not in the interest of some few in our country," he said.