ANC policy conference: What economy to transform?

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Former Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom and former Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Petterson are among those expected to attend the ANC's NWC meeting on Monday.

Former Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom and former Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Petterson are among those expected to attend the ANC's NWC meeting on Monday.

WEB_IMAGES_ANC_FLAG_20170403

Former Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom and former Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Petterson are among those expected to attend the ANC's NWC meeting on Monday.

Former Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom and former Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Petterson are among those expected to attend the ANC's NWC meeting on Monday.

JOHANNESBURG - The ANC's economic transformation policy proposals would attempt to find answers to the country's serious economic questions.

A recession, sub-investment grade credit rating, low confidence and poor investment in the economy were set to be under the spotlight at the party's national policy conference, which kicks off on Friday.

The conference also came when unemployment figures rose yet again.

The discussions were set to be intense, with views on how to fix the ailing economy being contested terrain in the ANC.

"Then picky people start talking about the fact that the Rand will fall. It was low anyway. Let it fall, we'll pick it up," ANC NEC Member Nomvula Mokonyane infamously said in April.

"Some of our comrades say the Rand must fall, we'll pick it up with radical economic transformation... I say hey, this is voodoo economics, real voodoo economics... We must take these comrades back to school," said SACP General-Secretary Blade Nzimande.

Land reform was set to be another big issue.

READ: Uncompensated land expropriation not ANC policy, says Nkwinti

The ANC proposed that legislation spell out what exactly the current constitutional provision of paying just and equitable compensation for expropriated land meant.

It should also clarify under what circumstances expropriation must take place.

But some of the party's structures would be pushing for something more radical.

"Our view is that there must be expropriation of land with no compensation and we'll be campaigning for that," said ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sihle Zikalala.

The province said 70 percent of the land should be in state hands and leased to the people who would use it.

"The debate though, is raising this question of saying should we not then consider expropriation without compensation? That is not what is policy today. Expropriation without compensation relates to one, instances where the land would have been acquired through fraudulent means, two where the land is used for criminal purposes," said ANC Economic Transformation Committee member Gugile Nkwinti.

There was also the political fire-starter - radical economic transformation or inclusive growth - depending on how radical an ANC member wanted to appear.

"As the ANC we acknowledge that it is through changing the structure of the South African economy that inclusive growth will become possible. Inclusive growth cannot occur if those who are excluded are not given fair access to economic opportunities," said ANC Economic Transformation Committee chairperson Enoch Godongwana.

In pursuit of this objective, a number of measures had been proposed.

READ: The phony radical transformation debate

One of these was that government should set aside at least 30 percent of its procurement and contracts for small businesses and co-operatives.

"Part of the reason why there is insistence on the 30 percent procurement is partly to continue opening up the space in the value chain of whether it's within government procurement or private sector  procurement. But in this particular case, government's expenditure runs into billions... Part of what would empower small and medium enterprises and co-operatives is to get access into that," said ANC Economic Transformation Committee member Lindiwe Zulu.

The state and private sector were called upon to push back rampant youth unemployment, by providing opportunities for training and apprenticeships.

"Working together, business, government and labour must create up to one million internships in order to bring more young people into the labour economy," said Godongwana. 

Monopoly ownership was also in the party's cross-hairs, with proposals for strict enforcement of competition laws.

Some party leaders were pushing for the conversion and strengthening of the Postbank as a fully fledged state bank.

But they were alive to the reality that all these grand proposals were being considered under the dark cloud of a shrinking economy, with the country's credit rating being downgraded to junk.

"When you have a recession you're going to have more people being unemployed. We cannot afford to add more people to the current high rate of unemployment in our country, especially young people," said ANC Economic Transformation Committee member Gugule Nkwinti.

Add to this equation key state-owned enterprises that were under-performing, low investment in the economy spawned by a lack of confidence - fuelled partly by political and policy uncertainty - and the ANC had a real puzzle on its hands.