Johannesburg - The ANC's policy discussion documents on the
economy ignore vital areas, economist Stephen Gelb said on Wednesday.
"There's a very long list of topics which are either
entirely missing from these documents or hardly mentioned at all... " Gelb
said in a debate at Wits University, Johannesburg on the policy documents.
He was referring to the ANC's discussion documents on
economic transformation, state intervention in the minerals sector and
state-owned entities and developmental finance institutions.
The documents ignored the idea of providing decent work.
"This is identified as the main objective of economic
policy, but there is no discussion on what it means."
There was no discussion of the youth wage subsidy or social
grants system. Black economic empowerment was given one paragraph, while
reducing inequality was referred to as an objective but not mentioned again in
Gelb said only one sector of the economy - mining - was
looked at in any detail. Agriculture, land and services did not even get a
The documents did focus on skills development and education.
"The focus is primarily on the supply of labour... but
there's very little focus on demand."
Gelb said the documents appeared to expect that growth in
South Africa would be driven almost entirely by the government's infrastructure
programme. But the private sector's role was ignored.
The documents' focus on a single priority - infrastructure -
was positive, Gelb said.
Overall he was disappointed with the quality of the
documents and found they made no distinction between the ANC and the state.
Earlier speakers found the introductory document on South
Africa's second transition to contain many tensions.
"There are a lot of tensions in the documents; there
are a lot of issues that are unresolved," Wits academic Achille Mbembe
He said after 18 years of "relative complacency and
self-congratulatory gestures" the African National Congress was realising
South Africa was an ordinary country and not a miracle.
South Africa's miracle of the 90s "can now be better
categorised as a stalemate", Mbembe said.
Although the policy documents hinted at this they did not
deal with it.
One of the main tensions in South African politics today was
that its constitutional democracy did not erase the apartheid landscape.
Mbembe said the current debates on the Constitution, the
judiciary and nationalisation, among others, were evidence of an attempt to end
the stalemate and usher in what the ANC was terming the second transition.
Mail & Guardian editor Nic Dawes also spoke of the
tensions within the documents.
There was some sense of openness while other areas indicated
Indications of fear in the ANC were evident in calls for
more control of the economy, the media and the judiciary as well as various
bills like the Protection of State Information Bill.
Dawes gave the example how home affairs was positioned
squarely as a "security department".
"Immigration particularly is framed as a security
problem," he said. But the document then takes a very humane approach to
economic migrants, concluding that they should be allowed in the country.
Where the main strategy document drew on the work of the
National Planning Commission, it called for a more open and competitive
Dawes said this jarred with the ANC's ambitions to create a
The ANC holds a policy conference every five years before an
elective conference, with the next one in Mangaung in December.
ANC branch members and alliance representatives debate
policy, and any policy changes decided at the policy conference need to be
ratified by the elective conference.
The next policy conference will be held in Midrand next