The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry organised a successful meeting in Johannesburg on 4 March 2009 where eight political parties responded to a series of questions posed by the business community. The issues covered economic policy, poverty alleviation, security and crime, labour and international affairs.
The parties were unanimous in the view that the private sector could, and should, play a major role in socio-economic development. This event has served to bring the business agenda before leading political parties early in the electoral process and is a vehicle for SACCI’s future engagements with the new government. It was reaffirmed that the commitment to socio-economic development is common to business and political parties present. Where we may differ is in the path that we take to achieve the goal and in the priorities that guide us to the goal.
Of note was the camaraderie and humour displayed by the representatives of the political parties and the friendly bantering between them. An invitation is extended to political parties that were not involved to engage with SACCI should they wish to participate on a similar platform.
MEET THE POLITICAL PARTIES EVENT - SUMMARY
This report presents a summary of each political party's opening statement then their responses to issues raised by participants in the event.
African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) - Ms Jo-Ann Downs
- Although exploitation does take place, the poor and unemployable are not assisted by current labour legislation. Casualisation opposition and minimum wage requirement denies the poor employment opportunities
- Skills shortage is not helped by the current education system. There is a need to partner with business to resolve skills shortage (FET colleges must involve business). Tax incentives and subsidies must be used to encourage business to develop/produce people with skills.
- Two areas within local government requiring a focus on skills development are water purification and financial management.
- Security and crime prevention require skills upgrading in the police. A centralised database (finger print data) will assist in increasing the current conviction rate.
- Foreign affairs must revisit SA Policy towards Zimbabwe (despotism was not be countenanced
- Apropos SMME development, it is necessary for government to partner with business to provide opportunities.
African National Congress (ANC) - Mr Gwede Mantashe
As the party in government Gwede Mantashe gave some time to the achievements of government. Other points covered included:-
- Poverty alleviation required a focus on a ‘cluster' covering job creation, decent work and sustainability.
- The economy is resilient and is not in recession, in part due to the industrial policy programme.
- SA is close to Universal access to education - the problem of education quality has to be addressed and a two department approach was advanced (primary/secondary and higher).
- Rural development together with the objective of food security must play a role in poverty alleviation.
- Labour laws do not impede employment - ‘it is a myth'. It is easy to fire workers.
- Zimbabwe's crisis is has its roots in poverty and in that respect is similar to SA's problem.
- Crime will be controlled by a specialised crime unit.
- The approach to tender allocation must be based upon ‘keeping politicians away'.
Congress of the People (COPE) - Mr Mosiuoa Lekota
The governing needs of today differ from those of the liberation movement of yesteryear. Today the emphasis must be on skills to deliver rather than rewarding loyalty to the party. Appointments in government must not be based on colour and party affiliation. The party aims for ‘economic stability' and the fulfilment of the constitutional provisions (rights). There is no short term solution to poverty alleviation. Points to be addressed:-
- Crime and corruption must be tackled together with business.
- Investors must be attracted to South Africa.
- Economic empowerment must focus on education (equipping schools with resources and capable teachers) and training.
- Climate change must be addressed (emissions control).
Democratic Alliance (DA) - Mrs Helen Zille and Mr Ian Davidson
- Helen Zille outlined the party's philosophy saying that it hinges on the ‘open opportunity society' and the need to ensure that suitable checks and balances are in place to prevent the abuse of power.
- Speaking on the party's economic position, Ian Davidson said that it gave prominence to market based solutions albeit with an important role for the state.
- Regulatory mechanisms must be shaped to ‘beef up' competition and combat ‘price-fixing' (but ensure that regulation does not stifle business growth).
- Empower individuals through ‘up skilling'. To that end a wage subsidy and a related voucher system should be introduced to encourage business to employ school/university leavers.
- Seed capital must be used to encourage business ‘start-ups'.
- A savings culture must be encouraged through the adoption of appropriate taxation measures.
- The state's involvement in Electricity, Pipelines, and ACSA is not warranted. Leave it to the private sector.
- Labour laws must be more flexible and the SETA system must be revisited.
- BEE has a remedial role to fulfil but be aware of social polarisation to which it gives rise.
Freedom Front (FF) - Col Piet Uys and Mr Jaco Mulder
- The party aims for a better ‘dispensation' and is concerned about the large number of South African citizens that have emigrated because of job restrictive policies (BEE).
- The two tier economic system cannot be developed by a one-size-fits-all approach. BEE has brought about skewed wealth redistribution and has not created it.
- Proposals include :-
- o Any person born after 26 April 1994 must be excluded from Affirmative Action programmes and BEE must be terminated 5 years hence.
- o Security expenses must be made tax deductable.
- o The silent diplomacy policy towards Zimbabwe has not worked and must be rejected.
Independent Democrats (ID) - Mr Lance Greyling
- Need to alter the direction of economic policy. (e.g. cut interest rates, fiscal stimulus package, infrastructure creation and the resulting skills developed).
- Introduce a wage subsidy to be linked to a Buy SA initiative.
- Support is given to:-
- o A Basic Income Grant (BIG).
- o Infrastructure expenditure on roads, energy, communications.
- o Building a renewable energy sector but nuclear power as an energy alternative is opposed - the reason being that the rewards go to foreigners.
- o Combating of crime by increasing police numbers and supporting Community Policing Forums.
- o Combating ‘social decay' by employing an additional 5000 social workers.
- Education policy seeks to ensure that all schools will have electricity within 2 years and libraries within 5 years. Non - performing teachers will be discharged.
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) - Mr Narend Singh
Narend Singh expressed concern about the present funding arrangements for political parties, maintaining that the skewed distribution of funding undermined the ability of small parties to offer voters an alternative. The party stands for Solidarity, Freedom and Unity. The ‘footprint' of the IFP is to be restored in KZN. Policy points put forward included:-
- The alleviation of poverty can be undertaken better than at present.
- There is a need for a strong administrative cadre.
- The private sector must be invigorated and allowed to do what it knows best - the state's role is to provide infrastructure.
- BEE has not worked (8-10% effective) and has led to the enrichment of the few.
- The resources assigned to combating crime must be enhanced and the dedication/motivation of the police service must be strengthened.
- Policies that have failed must be revisited (e.g. Zimbabwe, HIV Aids).
United Democratic Movement (UDM) - Mr (Bantu Holomisa
Bantu Holomisa also expressed concern over the funding of political parties. Tender allocations should be free of any form of funding benefits to a favoured party. Democracy must allow voters to make a choice. Policy points outlined included:-
- The Business sector as a job creator must be allowed to flourish.
- The trades unions do not represent the unemployed; therefore the interests of the unemployed must be done through a ‘council' that would have representation in the NEDLAC process.
- Small business requires support as does Agriculture.
- South African jobs should be protected.
As a parting shot, his advice to youth was drop your ‘umshini wam' and take up your laptop.
Question and Answer Session
Questions on the following topics were asked and responded to:
- Policy towards Buy Local, BEE, Poverty alleviation
- BEE is here to stay.
- Oppose nepotism.
- Procurement to be based on getting the job done, if it can be done by buying local that is a plus, if it can be done by empowering people that is a plus plus.
- Protection is opposed.
- The fiscus cannot afford basic income grant, it is not sustainable.
- It can never be right to curry favour via BEE policy.
- Rural Development
- Rural Development requires a focus on education and extension services. South Africa is a net food importer and therefore an opportunity is there to become more food self sufficient. It can offer a path to wealth in the rural areas.
- Land reform in the manner presently conducted is not working.
- The focus will be on five provinces where MECs will be appointed whose responsibilities will be Rural Development.
- Food security is to be an objective.
- The Budget provides funds for Rural Development and the intention is to work closely with the private sector.
- Funding provision is inadequate. The bulk of the spending is on infrastructure and social services.
- Small Business
- India has shown a successful blue print for assisting small business.
- In getting micro-loans to the rural areas, eliminate red tape impediments.
- Liberalise the labour laws.
- Bailing out of SAA
- It is not necessary for the state to support a national carrier. The flag can be flown by private enterprise.
Click here to download the comparison of manifesto's
The video feed for the event can be viewed here