ANC faces up to apartheid's economic legacyBy JOHANNES MYBURGH | Tuesday, June 26 2012 at 15:27
South Africa's ruling African National Congress began a key policy conference Tuesday urging a "second transition" to give black people more ownership of Africa's largest economy, two decades on from apartheid.
The 1994 end of white minority rule handed political power to a democracy dominated by the ANC but economic inequalities remain and the meeting was expected to discuss the sensitive issue of land reform.
The continent's powerhouse has seen once-vigorous growth slow to a crawl and the conference was also expected to see the state seek greater control of the mining sector in a bid to create jobs ahead of a party election in December.
The ANC hopes the four-day conference will yield a five-year plan to give the economy fresh impetus.
"The policy conference will represent a paradigm shift in the approach of the ANC towards the economic development of our country," one of the discussion documents said.
Around 3,500 delegates from the country's nine provinces were expected but most of the sessions will be closed to the public. President Jacob Zuma was expected to deliver the main address Tuesday.
Eighteen years after the transition from apartheid to democracy, critics accuse the ANC-led government of not doing enough to reduce poverty and inequality and say the country needs a "second transition".
"A lot of black people don't approve of our democracy if it still excludes them from the economic mainstream," said the Young Communist League national secretary Buti Manamela.
"There were successes, yet massive failures like unemployment, poverty and inequality," he told AFP.
One policy document stressed the need to focus "on the social and economic transformation of South Africa over the next 30 to 50 years" to change "a structural crisis we inherited from the apartheid economy."
Radical elements in the ANC youth league have called on the government to nationalise mines and forcefully expropriate white-owned farms.
The conference will discuss reforming the mining sector, so that the state receives more revenue from its mineral resources. One conference document advocated the use of expropriation "where necessary".
"The willing-buyer-willing-seller principle constrained the pace and efficacy of land reform," it said.
But delegates were aware that simply taking over businesses would be counterproductive, said Manamela.
"We've got to be considerate of the fact that if we move ahead in nationalisation or state intervention without thinking of the negative consequences there will be disinvestment," he said.
Little progress has been made to restore land to people forced away before and during apartheid. White South Africans - around 10 percent of the population - still own as much as 80 percent of the land.
"The success of the conference is the convergence of views from the branches of the ANC that gives a direction as to where we're taking not only the ANC but the country in order to meet the challenges that we face now, the challenges of unemployment, of poverty, of inequality," the party's head of policy Jeff Radebe said.
Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said the country's role in the "Africa agenda", like military interventions on the continent, was a high priority.
The conference will make policy suggestions to be considered at the ANC National Conference in December, when the party will hold its leadership election.
Though the leadership campaign will not be discussed officially at Tuesday's conference, unofficial lobbying among delegates is expected.
Zuma is considered the frontrunner.
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