Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation Inclusive Growth Forum, Drakensberg Convention Centre
Former President Kgalema Motlanthe,
Programme Director, Prof Nick Binedell,
European Union Ambassador, Dr Marcus Cornaro,
General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana,
Isithwalandwe Baba Andrew Mlangeni,
Mr Roger Macquet and Mrs Frederika Macquet,
Trustees of the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation,
Colleagues from government, business, labour, civil society and academia,
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are gathered here to imagine another South Africa.
We have come here from all corners of the land to imagine a new country, one that is free, equal, prosperous and joyful.
If we are to liberate ourselves from the shackles of the past and the troubles of the present, we must be prepared to dream.
We must see in our mind’s eye a landscape that is transformed and a people who are enriched and empowered.
We must see the roads that brought us here – the roads that wind through the foothills of the Drakensberg – as arteries of commerce and knowledge.
They must take us to homesteads that have the land and the means to both produce food and to generate a living.
They must take us to schools that are as good as any you will find in the country (and indeed the world); centres of excellence where educators are dedicated and learners are eager to acquire knowledge and skills.
They must take us past clinics that have the medicine, equipment and staff that our people need to care for their ailments.
We imagine these areas as places where young people will find opportunities to thrive, where they will stay and raise families.
We see our cities growing, not outwards, but upwards.
Vacant land near the centres of cities and towns is turned into affordable housing for the poor and working class, close to shops and parks, schools and clinics, public transport and places of work.
Children are safe, valued and nurtured.
From the day they are born, they are nourished, stimulated, educated and challenged.
They are taught that men and women are equal, that none may claim dominion over another, and that all must have the same opportunities to learn, to work, to earn and to raise a family.
We imagine a country where no-one is afraid to walk the streets at night, where families sleep peacefully and all pay tax knowing that their hard-earned money will be well spent and properly accounted for.
We imagine a country that is integrally and enthusiastically part of the great African continent, as comfortable with immigrants from other countries as we are made to feel when we visit their countries to trade, to invest, to learn, to work and to settle.
We see a country that has embraced the benefits of technology for economic growth, social development and for more effective governance.
We are producers of knowledge and drivers of technological progress.
We have gathered here in the Drakensberg not only to imagine another South Africa, but to make firm our conviction that such a country is possible.
We dream today as our forebearers dreamt when they wrote the Freedom Charter.
They knew then that what they imagined – a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it – was within their grasp.
They were not daunted by the obstacles they faced, nor were they intimidated by the forces that tried with such ferocity to deny them their dream.
The inclusive society that we seek is similarly within our reach.
We know that it can be achieved not only because we have together managed to defeat an iniquitous and inhuman system, but because we have already made much progress, together, in building such a society.
Our democracy will soon be 25 years old.
In the broad sweep of history it is but a moment, but for nearly half our population it is a lifetime.
Soon there will be as many South Africans born in a democratic South Africa as there are born under apartheid.
And yet, though these young people did not live under apartheid, for most of their lives they have had to live with its legacy.
That is why this forum is so important and so timely, for it provides an opportunity not only to imagine a South Africa that has freed itself from its divided past, but also to consider what needs to be done to realise the dream we all have of an inclusive society.
The South Africa we dream of will not be achieved without hard work and concerted, common effort.
It will not be achieved without appropriate policy choices, effective planning, clear evidence, sound data and broad collaboration.
It will not be achieved without political will, courageous leadership and the mobilisation of all social forces behind an ambitious programme of economic and social transformation.
While this Forum will deliberate on some of these issues – and many more – over the course of the weekend, there are four areas which I would want to highlight as being critical to the achievement of inclusive growth and a more equal society.
As we have had to confront the reality of state capture, we have been forced to appreciate once more the vital importance of democratic institutions in ensuring stability and protecting against the abuse of power and the theft of public resources.
One of the great achievements of our young democracy has been the establishment of durable institutions that have as their collective mandate the advancement of the interests of all South Africans, particularly the poor and the vulnerable.
The process of state capture – with all its attendant political, legal and economic consequences – has eroded the capabilities of several institutions and undermined public confidence in their ability to promote their interests.
We have begun the task of restoring the integrity and credibility of several institutions to ensure that they are able to effectively fulfil their mandate without undue interference.
We depend on these institutions to mediate the distribution of power and resources across society in a manner that is fair, progressive and based in law.
We depend on them to prevent the rapacious extraction of our national resources by a powerful elite – whether in government or in business – to enrich themselves at the expense of the masses.
A common element in many of the conflicts that continue to plague our continent in particular is the absence of capable institutions that are able to mediate the unbridled competition for resources.
We have seen this phenomenon on a smaller scale in South Africa, where governance has been eroded and service provision disrupted in several municipalities and provincial departments due to corruption, mismanagement and fearsome political contestation.
The achievement of an inclusive society requires institutions that are not only credible and capable, but that are also equipped to enable and facilitate transformation.
We seek a state that is both capable and developmental.
For as long as the institutions we have established to facilitate land reform are unable to process the thousands of claims brought by poor rural communities, then we will not be able to achieve an inclusive society.
When hospitals run short of medicine, when housing projects remain unfinished, when schools run out of books, we know that our institutions are failing our people.
This explains our determination to confront the challenges of governance across the public sector, from state owned enterprises to municipalities, from our law enforcement agencies to our frontline delivery departments.
This work must proceed with urgency, but it must at the same time be thorough and meaningful.
We are determined to build institutions that will last for generations and that will withstand the turbulent winds of political upheaval or social disruption.
Ladies and gentlemen,
If we are to achieve inclusive growth, we must respond to the many ways in which black South Africans are excluded.
At the heart of the inequality, poverty and underdevelopment that is so prevalent in our society was the dispossession of the black majority – African, coloured and Indian – of their assets.
Their land was taken away from them, their homes, their livestock, their crops, their businesses and their livelihoods.
Denied opportunities to acquire assets, the lives of millions of our people remain precarious, with only poverty to pass on from one generation to the next.
Since the dawn of democracy, we have done much to address this asset poverty, for example, by building over four million houses for the poor since 1994.
Now the country has turned its attention to land, with a renewed commitment from several quarter to accelerate land redistribution and restitution and ensuring security of tenure, particularly for the poor and vulnerable.
This is essential to address past injustices and reduce asset poverty.
It is also essential to growth and development.
The economic potential of land in South Africa has been severely constrained by the concentration of ownership and control in the hands of the few.
It is time to unlock that potential, by giving arable land and agricultural support to emerging black farmers, by providing labour tenants with security of tenure, by housing poor families in well-located areas and by ensuring that communal land is used for the benefit of communities.
Asset ownership provides pathways out of poverty.
It improves standards of living, increases household saving and investment, is associated with improved educational outcomes and empowers poor people to become more assertive economic agents.
Significantly, it ensures that growth is more inclusive and more sustained economic growth.
Alongside the dispossession of land, the most heinous act of the apartheid state was the deliberate denial to black South Africans of decent education.
The shortage of skills in our society remains the greatest impediment to inclusive growth.
The development of our human capabilities is therefore essential.
The last 24 years have seen many achievements in education, from the creation of a single non-racial education system to the achievement of almost universal enrolment in the early years of school, from a substantial expansion of enrolment in higher education to the recent growth of our early childhood development programme.
Yet, set against these achievements there have been some intractable challenges.
The quality of the education our children receive is far below the standards we expect and need.
Drop-out rates in high school and in institutions of higher learning are stubbornly high, reflecting the impact of poverty and social circumstance, as well as the lack of preparation for further study.
While these challenges are being steadily addressed across the education and skills development system, progress is slow and uneven.
It must be our ambition to move faster and to aim higher.
This requires that policy be critically examined and resources more strategically directed.
It requires that we provide young people with the skills needed for the workplace of tomorrow.
We know that it may be years before we see the benefits of the improvements we make now in the education system.
It is therefore important that we capacitate the young people who are today looking for work, through work experience initiatives, in service training and work readiness programmes.
Measures like the Employment Tax Incentive may reduce the risks and costs of employing first-time job seekers, but there is a clear need for a broad, multi-faceted range of interventions to get young people into employment.
Unless we develop the skills of our people, they will remain excluded from the productive economy and the dream of sustained growth will remain elusive.
Ladies and gentlemen,
An inclusive economy requires the fundamental reconfiguration of gender relations in South African society.
Our economy will remain forever constrained if women are not given the opportunity to become full and equal participants in the economic life of the country.
The expectation that women should bear the greatest responsibility for child care and domestic work consigns women to positions of economic and social subordination.
From the earliest days of life, we must work to ensure that the girl child has every opportunity that her male counterpart has.
We must ensure that she remains in school until matric and is given the space to excel in fields like maths, science and technology.
We must make sure that she can go to an institution of higher learning or into post-school training, that she is able to equally compete for a job, to earn equal pay for equal work and to promoted according to her ability and contribution.
If we achieve this, if we confront patriarchy in all its forms – from the most brutal to the most subtle – we will already have advanced far along the path to an inclusive economy.
Gender equality is necessary to make the economy inclusive, but it is just as important to make the economy grow.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The challenges we face are many, they are substantial, they are complex and they are deeply embedded in our society.
Yet, we dare to dream.
We dare to be hopeful because we have overcome so much and we know our people to be capable of overcoming much more.
We know that the desire of our people for peace, prosperity and comfort is far stronger and more abiding than the inheritance of our shameful past.
Working together, in gatherings of this nature, we must forge a shared vision of an inclusive South Africa.
We must unite all South Africans behind a common programme for fundamental change.
For it is only in unity, it is only through working together, that we will realise the dream of a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it, black and white, man and woman, young and old.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency