President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday urged South Africans not to give up on the dream of a better society and to return to the objectives of the National Development Plan, with land and economic reform at the top of the agenda.
“Let us imagine this South Africa that we so long to have,” Ramaphosa said in his reply to the debate on his state of the nation address, delivered last Thursday.
He said his address had been a blueprint to achieving the vision, initially born out of the Freedom Charter adopted by the liberation movement in 1955, of a country that had overcome injustice and dire challenges.
Those who drafted the charter dared to look beyond their present reality to envision a country that was fundamentally different from the country they lived in, and risked ridicule to pursue that vision, he said.
“Now it is the vision of the Freedom Charter that underpins our Constitution. It is the vision that informs the National Development Plan and our vision towards 2030, and it is the vision that must inform everything we do now. The State of the Nation Address was not merely about dreams.
“It was about the lived reality of our people and setting out what we need to do to achieve the South Africa we want.
“We are not starting anew,” he said, adding that government set off on a path of renewal some 18 months ago.
“But our actions do require greater urgency and greater focus.”
He said economic growth and reform was the key to changing the fate of South Africans and vowed to push ahead with the parliamentary process to amend the constitution to explicitly allow for expropriation without compensation.
Land should be given to those “who need it and work it” he stressed, and said the process will make clear how expropriation without compensation can be put into effect as part of comprehensive transformation of land policy.
“It is important because it enables us to conduct land reform in a pro-active and planned manner. This frees us from a wait-and-see approach dependent on market sales.
“Expropriation without compensation, in defined circumstances, allows us to do so at a cost that is reasonable for the South Africa people.”
Ramaphosa said the run-up to the May national elections which returned him to power had shown, through interaction with voters, that they experienced extreme difficulty.
He said change needed to be a collective effort, because South Africa’s problems affected all its people, and that he viewed the opposition as colleagues in this effort.
He therefore viewed the comments of opposition parties not as criticism, but as “complementary and supplementary to what we set up”.
“I’m glad the Honourable (Julius) Malema agrees with me that we will never solve the social ills of our country sans addressing land issue.”
Malema, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, smiled at several points in Ramaphosa’s speech as he referred directly to him, but official opposition leader Mmusi Maimane commented afterwards that he found the president’s remarks hollow and contradictory.
He said Ramaphosa and himself agreed that the country was in crisis, but the speech did not give clear measures on how to address this.
Maimane said Ramaphosa spoke about attracting private investment but failed to realise that allowing expropriation without compensation affected property rights and therefore would work against his very intentions.
He added that the president also rightly said that state-owned entities were in a crisis but failed to find any solution to this other than throwing more money at them.
Ramaphosa said turning around parastatals was not easy as, through corruption, what “we have inherited is a number of broken platforms”.
Maimane said Ramaphosa had long been aware of the rot in state companies, and had yet to put a firm end to it.
– African News Agency (ANA)