Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Let's not all freak out here...
Without information, perceptions generally turn to worst case scenarios, most especially when it comes to government policy. I have noted this and fought this on this platform many times before. However, the ANC must shoulder much of the responsibility for this in their complete incompetence in presenting policy to its public. The ANC done little to effectively engage the public on policy decsions, except for the constant prodding at the press for not paying enough attention to policies and instead focusing on personalities. If ever the ANC needed to get some good PR consultants in, it's now.

Anyway, enough ranting. The M&G offers up a revealing interview with ANC Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, in which he discusses various policy shifts. It's probably reassuring reading for many 'non-believers' and backs up a lot of what I've been saying about the largely hysterical and uninformed posturing around the Zuma faction's "revolution".
Can we expect a big increase in government spending this year, as there seems to be a more pro-poor and radical stance within the ANC?
Well, the social grants take a big chunk of the budget. What you are likely to see in the future is an attack on poverty, which also deals with rural development and food security. It’s better to get the poor out of poverty than for them to always rely on state grants, which is not sustainable over the long term. Job creation is therefore a top priority, but decent jobs and not irregular and unstable jobs.

Two of the areas the ANC has decided to focus on in poverty alleviation are education and health. In education, we want to reopen teacher training colleges to produce a new calibre of teacher. We also need more skills training because at the moment there is a mismatch; we are not sufficiently providing the skills required by the economy. Health and education are now so important that they are standalone committees, unlike in the past when it was part of the social transformation sub-committee. There will therefore absolutely be substantial fiscal increases to deal with these priorities.

Do you think Trevor Manuel will continue as finance minister in a new ANC government after the 2009 elections?
Yes, I think so. Trevor is one of the most upright members of the NEC and also in terms of ANC policies. I say so without prevarication.

If so, will this be with the blessing of Cosatu and the SACP, who have heavily criticised the policies he has pursued over the years?
This time, you will have components of the alliance meeting as activists of the same movement and collectively discussing and arriving at positions which then get effected through government.

But there is also some serious work that is required to bridge the policy divide that has existed between Cosatu-SACP and the ANC. Manuel is just the minister. You see, Trevor moves around with bankers and others, so he will bring insights from there. We also have in the alliance people who bring lived experience of policies and others from a labour perspective and so on. So none of them should hold back their views or positions, and hopefully out of that we get a synthesis that will take us forward.