|18 May 2001
Ramaphosas black empowerment plan challenges government's economic strategy
South Africa's President
Thabo Mbeki is considering how to react to the black empowerment report which
effectively challenges the main precepts of official government policy and has
been delivered by a major political rival, Cyril Ramaphosa. The plan seeks to
resurrect the Reconstruction and Development Plan, unceremoniously bundled off
the stage when the African National Congress came to power in 1994 and replaced
by the current neo-liberal prescription. In the present political climate many
local observers therefore view the Black Economic Empowerment Commission's
report as a platform on which Ramaphosa can build a challenge.
'National lntegrated Black Economic Empowerment Strategy' criticises the record
of Gear, the government's Growth, Employment and Redistribution plan, to which
Mbeki has nailed his colours. The raison d'être of this policy has
been to secure high rates of growth, but the black empowerment plan instead
call the country's economic growth rate disappointing" and call for
government intervention. It maintains that the development of black economic
empowerment "has to be a state-driven programme' since it encompasses
Reconstruction and Development Programme priorities such as job creation, rural
development and infrastructure development.
Mbeki officially welcomed
the BEEC report, produced under the chairmanship of Ramaphosa, when he
presented it late last month, in the midst of allegations that he was plotting
against the president. He is apparently still being investigated by the
The publicity surrounding these accusations has
revealed to public view previously unacknowledged power politics in the ANC,
and the Black Business Council was this week seeking to avoid the potentially
embarrassing juxtaposition of Ramaphosa and Mbeki on a public platform when the
response to the report is made.
The report is a challenge to Mbeki's
neo-liberal orthodoxy in a number of ways.
- First, it rejects the
central Gear role for foreign direct investment in securing the necessary
growth rates. Instead it proposes forced domestic investment at high levels.
- Then it rejects the
reliance on the free market to engender growth; instead it calls for the state
to direct key investment.
- Finally, while in the main
it seeks the development of a new bourgeoisie, it emphasises rural development
through state intervention, black women's empowerment other human capital
development and measures to increase employment.
Thus it has secured trade
union support by its proposals for boosting employment in the privatisation
process. Cosatu economists like Neva Makgetla have called it "holistic".
(SouthScan Vol 16, No.10)