Mmusi isn’t happy about a Cyril-run ANC’s economic conversion – rest of South Africa will be.

LONDON — For those who remember the bad old days, watching contemporary South African politics provides a sense of déjà vu. In the 1980s as the folly of apartheid became increasingly apparent to the ruling National Party, its leaders began borrowing policies championed by their liberal opposition. What started as a trickle became a flood culminating in the newly appointed FW de Klerk’s release in 1989 of political prisons, unbanning of the ANC and the inevitable transition to universal franchise. Their successor, the ANC, is starting to employ the same approach through enlisting the sensible economic policies of its opposition Democratic Alliance. As the DA’s leader Mmusi Maimane explains in some detail in his excellent contribution below, ANC president-in-waiting Cyril Ramaphosa is proposing industrial scale adoption of DA economic policies. While applauding his political opponent’s conversion, Maimane counters that only the DA will be able to execute this theory. He may be right. But in reality, neither he or Ramaphosa has invented anything new. They are both simply stating the obvious. Economics possesses unbreakable laws that have become so widely understood internationally they are only challenged by the arrogant or ignorant – the disasters in Venezuela and Zimbabwe offering copybook examples. SA’s shocking economic performance of recent times proves the Zuma Administration, which drew on its leaders antiquated belief in a long failed Soviet model, has been on the wrong path. Unlike his boss, the bookish Ramaphosa is well versed in practical economics and what he hasn’t experienced directly from his decades in business, he understands from his wide reading. Maimane obviously isn’t crazy about this. But in a broader sense, this is a hugely positive message for South Africa. Hope springs. – Alec Hogg

Late Entrant. More of Zapiro’s brilliant work available at www.zapiro.com.

By Mmusi Maimane*

Cyril Ramaphosa gave a lengthy speech recently, setting out the DA’s economic policy. To be fair, he didn’t call it that. He called it A New Deal for Jobs, Growth and Transformation. But there is nothing new about it. The DA has consistently called for economic policy that has jobs and growth at its centre, because that is the only way to lift 30 million South Africans out of poverty. We have consistently held that growth and transformation are mutually reinforcing, rather than conflicting, objectives. So even though Ramaphosa’s new deal is somewhat secondhand, we welcome it heartily.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa with DA leader Mmusi Maimane in Parliament.

It is wonderful that there is a growing consensus at the centre of SA’s politics around the DA’s approach to economic policy and growth. This is the unity of purpose we have been pursuing. We want South Africans to come together around the values of Constitutionalism and an open economy that delivers for all and not just the elite. We want South Africans to unite behind economic policy that focuses on the 30 million poorest South Africans rather than on enriching a small number of black industrialists.

So this public endorsement from a leading ANC presidential candidate is gratifying. At the Daily Maverick’s The Gathering last week, Pravin Gordhan emphatically denied any common ground with DA policy, but was unable to point out major differences. From our side, we’re certainly happy to be in the “same Whatsapp Group” as anyone in SA who understands that job creation through an unrelenting focus on inclusive growth and investment is the only way to sustainably transform our economy and society.

As Ramaphosa acknowledges, this requires us to commit to stable, investor-friendly policies, to invest heavily in infrastructure and skills, and to put small and medium enterprises at the centre of our policies, since they have the highest potential to create jobs. These are policies that have led to growth and employment where we govern. This is why the Western Cape has achieved faster job creation in the past decade than has the rest of the country. Our policy approach has been tried and tested and shown to work. We believe strongly in it, and we want to see it implemented as widely as possible.

Read also: Maimane tells Ramaphosa to get out of the ANC while there’s time

As Ramaphosa conceded, rather ironically, we need to move from looking to create a small number of super elite to an economy in which the state’s role is to create an enabling environment so that entrepreneurial activity can flourish, creating sustainable, private-sector jobs on a massive scale.

He recognizes that this means aggressive support for SME’s by massively reducing their cost of doing business, through policy and regulatory reform. It means prioritizing sectors with the greatest potential for job creation, such as agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and mining. It means promoting renewable energy. It means harnessing ongoing urbanization to improve access to land and housing ownership, services and economic opportunities. It means land reform that includes systems to improve land productivity, and greater support for small-scale black farmers.

So much music to our ears: He says we must maintain fiscal discipline and reject populist projects. We must promote export-oriented businesses, and local procurement from a wider variety of smaller businesses. SOE’s must be properly governed and operated for the benefit of the public, and private capital must be considered.

Sound familiar?

The DA has been consistent in this policy approach for years. Ramaphosa is getting to the table somewhat late, but better late than never. It is unfortunate, though, that he and Gordhan and their faction within the ANC have been legitimizing policies that serve to enrich a connected elite at the expense of the many, for many years now. This has taken South Africa backwards, increasing poverty and enabling corruption and state capture to take root and become deeply entrenched.

qnAnd herein lies the most important difference between the DA and the ANC. The DA will be able to actually implement these policies. We already do so where we govern, which is why DA governments have lower unemployment and higher growth. Effective implementation requires a capable state. The DA seeks to recruit the best people for public service, who will actually implement policy. Appointments are not a reward for comradeship.

The ANC is so deeply infested with corruption, patronage and factionalism, that it is literally paralysed. Ramaphosa has been the second most powerful person in the country for some years now and under his watch South Africa has gone backwards.

Point number 10 in Ramaphosa’s 10-point plan is to confront corruption and state capture. He states unequivocally that it is “necessary to take immediate steps to remove from positions of responsibility those individuals who have facilitated state capture”. I couldn’t agree more. Roll on 2019.

  • Mmusi Maimane is the leader of South Africa’s official opposition, the Democratic Alliance.
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