Needed: New Uhuru in SA
Johannesburg- PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA used the occasion of the 23rd commemoration of Freedom Day on April 27 to emphasise a new national narrative of economic independence but it may yet be a battle left for far too late.
As analysts point out, Zuma is facing a bruising political fight for his life and marshalling his troops for a comprehensive national programme is now becoming increasingly difficult.
And on Monday last week, the fallout appeared to blow out in the open as the leader was barred and heckled from making a speech at the main May Day celebrations of the Congress of South African Trade unions, Cosatu.
Cosatu is ANC’s governing alliance partner, along with South African Communist Party and events on May Day were deeply embarrassing.
Cosatu has made a resolution calling for President Zuma to step down and has openly backed Vice President Cyril Ramamphosa to take over.
But, for all the external and internal pressures, President Zuma – a political survivor and smiling schemer – is not in any immediate danger.
This is what gives him the confidence to still try to pursue the idea of radical economic transformation.
On Freedom Day, he indicated the wish to see through this particular fight.
“As we celebrate the progress made in the past 23 years, we also admit that there is further work to be done,” he said.
“We have achieved political freedom but economic freedom still remains largely elusive. It is for this reason that we speak about radical economic transformation.
“Let me reiterate that by radical economic transformation, we mean fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.
“The majority of black people are still economically disempowered and are dissatisfied with the economic gains from liberation.”
He noted that he level of inequality remains high.
“White households earn at least five times more than black households.
“Only ten percent of the top one hundred companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are owned by black South Africans, directly-achieved principally, through the black empowerment codes.
“The pace of transformation in the workplace, the implementation of affirmative action policies as required by the Employment Equity Act, also remains very slow.”
And at the centre of this debate is the land question and Zuma said he will “use all available instruments necessary in expediting land restitution and respond to land hunger.”
“The land question will feature prominently in the policy conference discussions of the governing party in June, including the debates on the expropriation of land without compensation,” he promised.
In recent months he has upped rhetoric on the need for land redistribution and the so-called radical economic transformation.
It remains to be seen, though, if he will be able to pull off one of these important milestones in a country where the economy is still in the hands of a recalcitrant white monopoly capital class.
Yet, things are not all gloomy for a country that was under the thumb of the internationally condemned apartheid regime.
Zuma recounted that in 23 years “we have achieved a lot” as a country that is seen as a model democracy in Africa with a progressive constitution.
“We have established three functional arms of the state, the executive, legislature and the judiciary which work to enable South Africans to enjoy their rights which are enshrined in the Constitution, based on their respective mandates.
“We have chapter 9 institutions whose job is also to protect and promote the rights of our people.
These include rights to religious freedom or gender equality to the promotion of clean governance and freedom from maladministration and corruption.
“For millions of our people, freedom has meant access to services that they were denied before, such as water, sanitation, housing, electricity, roads, health care or education.”
That will not impress all people in one of the world’s most unequal societies where the opulence of mansions often is juxtaposed by the stark poverty of shack compounds.
And scholars such as the respected Dr Motsoko Pheko have pointed out that blacks fare the worst in all human development indices.