Address to Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Jacob Zuma, International Convention Centre, Durban, 10 April 2008

The outgoing President of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry,
Themba Ngcobo,
Incoming President, Moses Tembe,
Minister of Transport and ANC NEC member Jeff Radebe,
Premier of KwaZulu-Natal and ANC NEC member, S'bu Ndebele,
MEC for Finance and Economic Development and ANC NEC member Zweli Mkhize
Captains of commerce and industry,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening to you all.

We appreciate this valuable opportunity to interact with leading members of the business community in this province.

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the assassination of Chris Hani, an outstanding and colossal leader of the ANC and the SACP. Our hearts still bleed from the tragic and untimely loss.

The brutal assassination was a moment of great sadness in our nation's history, an event that threatened the country with upheaval and widespread violence.

The anniversary reminds us of how far we have come as a nation, and how the abiding memory of Chris Hani urges us to intensify our efforts to build the kind of society for which he so bravely fought, and for which he ultimately lost his life.

We can draw some satisfaction from how far we have travelled since that fateful day. We seem to forget sometimes the perilous state that our country found itself in.

It was a period of high political drama. A low-intensity war was being conducted against our people, the economy was crumbling after years of decline, and a mood of deep uncertainty gripped all in our society.

We have certainly achieved much since then. We have attained political stability and relegated political violence to the past. Where civil war once loomed, we are now able to live in peace in a democratic society.

The achievements arise from the sacrifices of people such as Cde Chris Hani who laid the foundation for the creation of a stable, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.

We have not met since the ANC's 52nd national conference in Polokwane. The conference brought into office what the media and commentators refer to as the "new leadership" of the ANC.

There is actually nothing new about the six officials and members of the National Executive Committee. They are all tried and tested cadres of the movement, who know the ANC through and through. Most have held leadership positions at various levels of the movement for years. These are men and women who have the interest of the organisation and this country at heart.

The leadership change has generated constant commentary and rumours about working relations between the ANC in government and at headquarters in Luthuli House. More so in this case where for the first time, the six Officials of the ANC are not members of Cabinet or government.

Also, a lot of interest arises from the fact that the President of the ANC and that of the Republic are two different people. However, this is nothing new, as it happened with Madiba and Cde Thabo Mbeki. What is new is that there was a leadership contestation this time round, which was a healthy, normal and robust democratic process.

The ANC conference demonstrated the maturity of our democracy in a most unprecedented manner. The leadership contestation and outcome in Polokwane were managed and handled in a manner that indicated the durability of our democracy and the depth of democratic values amongst our people.

Polokwane should convince even the most sceptical of investors that this new democracy was founded on sound principles. Our Constitution guarantees the rights of our citizens in a most progressive manner.

The Bill of Rights, Chapter 9 institutions, separation of powers between the legislature, judiciary and executive are some of the tenets that provide a guarantee that our democracy will withstand any test and will outlive any government.

Due to these fundamental principles and democratic culture that dates back many years in the ANC, the transition post-Polokwane has been smooth. There is only one ANC, it does not matter who the members voted for in Polokwane. It was their democratic right to choose the leaders of their preference. Our work is guided by the resolutions that were taken in Polokwane, which bind both the cadres serving the ANC and those deployed in government. The resolutions set the policy direction of the organisation for the next five years.

In addition, all sorts of stories have been told about the nature of our relations with COSATU and SACP post Polokwane. For the record, the Alliance remains strong and intact. We will continue to work together as the ANC, SACP and COSATU to transform all aspects of our country in order to eradicate poverty and improve the lives of our people.

Ladies and gentlemen, when we in the ANC assert the claim: a better life for all South Africans, we are underlining what in the main our economic policy seeks to achieve - the eradication of poverty and underdevelopment.

We are proud of the fact that together with our development partners and allies, the ANC government created conditions for the longest expansion of the South African economy in recorded history; the rate of growth averaging over 4.5% every year since 2004.

The number of employed people has been increasing by about half a million each year, although the levels of unemployment remain unacceptably high. There are some positive trends in this province.

The MEC for Finance and Economic Development mentioned recently a noticeable decline in the unemployment rate from 33 per cent in 2004/05 to 29 per cent in 2006/07 in KwaZulu-Natal.

The ANC has deliberately adopted macro-economic policies that favour the upliftment of the poor in our country, and to address the unusual situation of the existence of two economies. That is why we invest so heavily in public infrastructure development and general socio-economic development.

This is evident in the provincial budget as well. The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has in the last four years invested R124.4 billion into the regional economy, as stated by the MEC for Finance and Economic Development in this year's Budget Speech.

The province spent a total of R95.8 billion on the education and health sectors alone and R11.6 billion on capital and infrastructure projects. We welcome the fact that there has also been an added emphasis on cooperatives and SMME programmes.

This will enable us to eventually move from having two economies to one integrated and winning economy. All indications are that despite the increase in the oil price due to a global recession, our economic outlook remains favourable. This may however provide little comfort to most citizens, who face a rising cost of living, especially food and petrol prices as well as load shedding problems.

There is no doubt that electricity investment should have been made earlier than it was. But the investment into our energy capacity is being made, and that is what is important now. We should make the crisis a positive turning point and the beginning of using electricity in an efficient manner that does not harm the environment.

Also, we urge our business community to work closely with COSATU to avoid the shedding of jobs as a result of the energy crisis.

We must demonstrate a similar urgency in response to crime. Much has already been done, and we salute the police service, the other elements of the criminal justice system, communities, civil society formations, and business for the hard work they continue to do to battle this scourge in our society.

But we want to do more, and more effectively. This includes reviewing all elements of the criminal justice system, not only to improve policing, but to close any loopholes that make the evasion of justice easier for criminals. We want to be hard on criminals, just as we make a greater effort to tackle the root causes of criminality.

In undertaking this task, we should look to some of the tactics we used in the past to such great effect. We have therefore called for the establishment of street committees throughout the country, where communities can be organised to improve safety in their neighbourhoods and identify criminal elements and report criminal activities to the police.

In promoting the fight against crime, let me emphasise that as the ANC we have continuously reaffirmed the need for everyone to respect the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

We have prioritised education as a core element of social transformation. Our government will be working with educators, parents, school governing bodies and other stakeholders to make education the priority of all.

The investment in skills development is another critical priority. I am pleased Honourable Premier, that the provincial government will invest R1, 8 billion in developing scarce skills in the construction industry ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We cannot let the opportunity pass. Ladies and gentlemen, the celebration of 152 years of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry is an important milestone for this province and the country. We congratulate the Chamber and the provincial government on the continued growth and success of the provincial economy.

Amongst some of the challenges we may need to deal with is the aggressive marketing of the province. We want to feel KZN wherever we are in the country and the globe. This province has many competitive advantages.

With the pending World Cup, the province stands to benefit handsomely especially from tourism. But it means we must deal with certain challenges. For example, Durban still goes to bed at 11pm, and for a tourist city that is problematic. Tourists want to be able to walk and eat from sunrise to sunrise. The warm waters of the Indian Ocean, beautiful weather, game parks and other attractions will help the province to attract as many visitors as possible.

We hope for some fierce competition amongst provinces and KZN will hopefully be ready to give Mpumalanga, Western Cape, Limpopo and others a run for their money. Remember Dubai used to be a desert but now it is a leading tourist attraction.

With cooperation amongst all players and inclusion of all, both emerging and established businesses, we can make KZN a star performer with regards to economic growth and development.

With regards to Zimbabwe, we urge all parties to respect the will of the people, regardless of the outcome, and to proceed within the requirements of the law. Where there are disputes these should be pursued through the appropriate legal channels.

We have already expressed our concern about the delay in the release of the results of the Presidential election. We trust that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is making every effort to bring this matter to finality as soon as possible.

Ladies and gentlemen, we will enter the 2009 election campaign seeking a renewal of our mandate to continue the effective management of the country and the economy.

We urge all political parties, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, to create conditions that are conducive to free political activity and open campaigning by all. Cooperation by all parties will ensure that we continue to cement the hard won peace that reigns in this province. KwaZulu-Natal should never ever revert to the levels of violence, pain, tension and displacement that we have seen before in this province.

In conclusion, we extend to you, the Chamber and its members, our best wishes for a successful and fulfilling year ahead.

I thank you.

Issued by African National Congress

  • Jacob Zuma is President of the ANC

1909 words