I regard our conference here today as one of the most important and hopeful developments in recent years. It is enormously significant that Foundations that were established by former national leaders from across the political spectrum have come together today to discuss the future of our beloved country.
The timing could also not be more appropriate: South Africa is in the grip of the most serious challenges that have confronted it since the establishment of our non-racial constitutional democracy 23 years ago:
- Our economy is in a more parlous condition than at any time since 1994.
- We are experiencing an unprecedented constitutional crisis;
- We are also beset by serious social challenges.
There is no doubt that we need a new national dialogue to discuss these pressing challenges. We need a dialogue that will include South Africans from across the political, ethnic and economic spectrums of the nation - because a few things are certain:
- the future of all South Africans - and of all our children for decades to come - is being threatened by the current challenges;
- there will be no solutions if we do not achieve win-win outcomes for all South Africans - and particularly for the most disadvantaged 40% of our population; and
- our problems can be resolved only if we work together.
We need to discuss our economy:
Here, surprisingly enough, I agree with President Zuma that we need radical economic transformation:
- We need to transform radically the situation where almost 40% of the population languishes in unemployment and hopeless poverty;
- We need to transform radically our approach to investment. Instead of frightening off local and foreign investors with undisguised attacks on property rights, we should be doing everything we can to persuade them to help us create jobs and to unlock South Africa’s enormous economic potential;
- We need to transform our attitude toward the appointment of people to key positions in the state and parastatals: in the appointment and promotion of people, merit needs to be taken into account properly, while moving forward as rapidly as possible to the representivity required by the Constitution;
- We need to transform radically our approach to endemic corruption that is draining our resources and inhibiting growth and investment. We need to re-establish effective corruption-busting units like the Scorpions. We need a National Prosecuting Authority that will prosecute those who break the law without fear, favour or prejudice.
- We need to transform radically the current situation in which our labour relations are regarded as among the worst in the world. We must ensure a fairer balance between labour, management and government and work together to produce greater value for all.
What we don’t need is the type of racially-divisive and economically catastrophic “radical economic transformation” that is being touted by Prof Chris Malikane - the advisor of our latest Minister of Finance. He wants to apply in South Africa the same policies that the Chavistas imposed in Venezuela - and that have led not only to the collapse of Venezuela’s economy - but also to the erosion of its democracy.