SPEECH BY F W DE KLERK TO THE CONFERENCE ON NATIONAL POLICY AT THE CROSSROADS,
JOHANNESBURG, 25 JULY 2012
I should like to thank most sincerely all the speakers and panellists who have participated in this conference today. In particular, I would like to thank Premier Helen Zille for finding time in her busy programme to share her views with us this afternoon.
This conference has clearly shown that we cannot ignore the ideological and policy debates that are currently being conducted within the ruling alliance. The decisions that will be taken at the ANC’s National Conference in Manguang in December will affect the future of the country for years to come. They will, in the first place, determine who our national leaders will be for the next five years. They will also indicate the direction in which national policy will move during the critically important period that lies ahead.
The presentations and discussions at our conference today show that national policy is indeed at the crossroads:
We can either take the road to economic growth and social justice that is indicated by the National Development Plan – or we can take the “second phase” road toward the goals of the national democratic revolution.
Although some of the National Planning Commission’s analysis is open to serious debate, few reasonable South Africans would disagree with its overall vision – or with its identification of the challenges confronting South Africa.
The NPC presents a vision of a future South Africa that we all can share. It includes
- Constitutional democracy;
- Unity in diversity;
- High quality education;
- Health and social services providing security to all those in need;
- Sustainable and equitable economic growth;
- Fair employment for all;
- An environment in which business can invest, profit and contribute to national goals;
- An effective state and public service;
- Mutual respect and human solidarity; and
- A South Africa that contributes to Africa and to the world.
Neither would reasonable South Africans disagree with the NPC’s diagnosis of the problems confronting South Africa. They include:
- High unemployment;
- Poor education – especially for black South Africans;
- Inadequate and antiquated infrastructure;
- Spatial planning that marginalises the poor;
- Unsustainable resource-intensive growth;
- An ailing public health system;
- Poor public service delivery;
- Corruption; and
- the fact that South Africa is still a divided society.
The National Development Plan makes proposals to address these challenges. We might not all agree with all aspects of these proposals – but at least they provide a pragmatic, inclusive and rational basis for discussions about our future.
That is the one road that we can take.
The other road has been examined in some detail at our conference today. It is the increasingly radical, ideological, statist and racially divisive path that is set out in many of the ANC’s present and proposed policy directions.
According to the NPC “political change brings no guarantee of social, economic or indeed political progress.” It observes that “throughout history many civilisations, empires and countries have experienced dramatic decline rather than progress”. It then identifies a number of indicators that are associated with societal decline.
The first factor that leads to societal decline is corruption.
Few would question the seriousness of corruption. However, what chance to we stand of stopping corruption if the entire state procurement system is built on a racially-based tender mechanism that invites corruption? According to the Special Investigating Unit, it is estimated that 10 – 25 % of state procurement expenditure, amounting to roughly R30 billion a year, is wasted through overpayment or corruption
How can we combat corruption if highly-placed individuals who have been imprisoned for corruption are released on the pretext of ill-health?
What hope do we have if the credibility of the National Prosecuting Authority is undermined by persistent political interference? What conclusions must we draw when the NPA drops corruption and murder charges against a senior police officer with close ties to senior members of the government?
The second indicator of decline identified by the NPC is the weakening of state and civil society institutions.
The NPC ascribes the “uneven performance of the public service” to a number of factors including “tensions in the political/administrative interface, instability of the administrative leadership, skills deficits, the erosion of accountability and authority structures, poor organisational design, inappropriate staffing and low staff morale.”
How, under these circumstances, can the ANC propose the radical expansion of the role of government in its proposed developmental state, when the public sector is clearly not coping with its present responsibilities? How can we strengthen civil society institutions – including the media – if the government increasingly adopts an adversarial approach to them?
The third indicator of decline is poor economic management.
For the first fourteen years of the new South Africa we experienced sound, pragmatic and successful macro-economic management. But what will happen if economic management is increasingly dominated by outmoded, divisive and disproven ideologies – rather than by a pragmatic understanding of global and national economic realities and market forces?
The NPC also identifies the danger of skills and capital flight as a factor in the decline of countries and civilisations.
But what can be more assured to cause accelerated skills and capital flight than policies that are militantly unfriendly to investors and that make it increasingly difficult for highly-skilled individuals and entrepreneurs to contribute to the economy?
The NPC warns against politics dominated by ethnicity and factionalism.
Unfortunately, the Mandela and Mbeki era of national reconciliation is over. Much of the proposed “second phase” of the National Democratic Revolution is openly directed against “white males” – who are quite unjustly blamed for the triple crisis of continuing unemployment, inequality and poverty. This happens at a time when government at the highest level exacerbates racial tensions by using implacable racial rhetoric; by supporting the singing of racially provocative songs and by condoning the incendiary racial threats of some of its formations.
Finally, the NPC identifies the lack of maintenance of infrastructure and standards of service as indicators of societal decline.
How can this be otherwise, when appointments to key posts in the public service and in parastatals are made according to racial quotas and political connections, rather than according to skill, qualifications and experience? The NPC itself refers to the problem of “undue political interference in the appointment of senior staff, including the deployment of cadres to posts for which they are unqualified and political intervention in operational matters.”
It is with a deep sense of sorrow that I must observe that all the indicators of social decline that were identified by the NPC are present in South Africa today.
The question is how we can reverse this decline and move in the direction of the vision that the NPC proposes.
There are two roads that the ANC can choose at its National Conference in Mangaung – both of which it ostensibly supports:
- There is the NPC road of the realistic analysis of the problems that confront us and the development of pragmatic, inclusive and workable approaches to the solution of those problems.
- On the other hand there is the NDR’s ideological analysis of the nature and origin of our problems and the radical, divisive and disproven solutions that it prescribes.
These two roads are irreconcilable and lead to very different destinations. The 4 000 delegates that will gather in Mangaung will take the formal decisions about which way South Africa will go. However, in taking this decision they will have to consider who will follow them on the road to the future.
It is for that reason that I welcome the assurance of Jeff Radebe, the ANC’s Policy Chief, that the policy discussion process “is not going to be confined to the ANC and its allies” and that the ANC will “call upon all sectors of South African Society and our people at large to engage with these discussion documents as their input will be of crucial importance to assist the ANC in shaping a future that must be characteristic of this paradigm shift to social and economic development”.
That is exactly what we have been doing today.