Source: The Department of Transport
Title: SA: Cronin: Address by the Deputy Minister of Transport, in response to the State of the Nation Address, in the National Assembly
Mr President - in your State of Nation address you gave our country a bold and detailed statement of clear intent. You outlined some of the key features of a massive and integrated infrastructural build programme that will help to catalyse a new, more shared, more job-creating growth path in our country, and indeed within our region.
It is a programme that has been developed, and that will continue to be driven by the PICC, chaired by yourself with the deputy president as deputyconvenor. The PICC involves ministers, all nine premiers, metro mayors, andSALGA. It is not a new institution - so much as a different way of doing things.
This is the developmental state at work in the midst of a mixed economy. Some of the programmes that you announced in the SONA are not new, but they haveoften lingered on in the nice-to-do list. In many cases (the massive Waterberg development is an example), delays have been caused by major private sectorplayers not being keen to be first movers. They’ve asked the legitimate question - if I invest in a mine will I have water, or electricity, or a rail-line to get my commodity to a port? This intervention provides certainty, and coordination. Without a determined and strategic state, key resources will not be unlocked.
The PICC draws its inspiration, in part, from what we learnt in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup. There was much skepticism about our ability as a country to be ready with transport, ICT and sporting infrastructure. And, indeed, without the leadership of the state (including the role played by the 9 hosting city governments) through the LOC deadlines would not have been met, and coordination between spheres of government, SOEs and the private sector would not have happened.
The PICC programme is also about effective planning and phasing. The build-up to the 2010 World Cup saw a significant rise in construction sector activity and significant job creation. But with the event over there was a slump in activity and employment. This time, we need to ensure a sustained and phased approach - so that we have an infrastructure "pipe-line" with a continuous flow of projects. In this way, we can also ensure that we shepherd potentially scarce resources - steel, cement, bitumen, and, of course, engineering and other skills.
This is the bold plan that you announced on Thursday, Mr President.
It threw the DA into complete disarray. The Hon. Mazibuko had already prepared her one-line response: "not bold enough" she said.
Her mentor, Premier Zille had a different view.
In fact, the Hon. Mazibuko was pretty much out of step with the entire country.
Investec Group economist, Annabel Bishop said "if the planned infrastructure programme was properly implemented…unemployment could be halved by 2020/2025." Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) said it was "good news to see infrastructure delivery taking centre stage in 2012 with the unveiling of a list of 5 major geographically focused programmes …They will also act as acounter-cyclical measure in combating the negative effects associated with the global economic downturn." BUSA said it presented possibilities for "new forms of partnership between state and private sector." COSATU has welcomed the plans.
International comment from Bloomberg and the Financial Times, forinstance, has also been favourable.
An often cynical local media also overwhelmingly welcomed the announcements. "Zuma unveils massive industrialization plan" was the Friday morning headline of one newspaper (The Times). Another Friday headline was "Zuma’s bold jobs plans. Big projects for provinces" (The New Age).
So how did the Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Mazibuko respond initially? She said that the speech "failed to give South Africa a bold plan" (!!)
Even the cynical William Saunderson-Meyer, who proudly titles his weekly column "Jaundiced Eye", felt that the Honourable Mazibuko was overdoing thejaundiced cynicism. He wrote: "To commit R300bn to infrastructural spending, the equivalent of two-and-a-half Soccer World Cups, is bold indeed."
Having snookered themselves in this way, the DA had to go back to the drawing boardover the weekend. All of the carefully crafted one-liners drafted for the Honourable Mazibuko were dead in the water.
And so what we have had over the past two days’ debate from the DA and many of the other opposition forces has been a poorly camouflaged back-flip.
Just about all of them began by saying (with varying degrees of reluctance): We welcome your bold plan, Mr President…but. And the "buts" were invariably "but you didn’t say enough about my pet project, Mr President. You didn’t say enough about an undying love for Afrikaans poetry. You didn’t say enough about ICT. You didn’t say enough about, this or that."
I was reminded of when I received training in exile for coming back into the country to conduct underground work, facing the possibility of capture, torture and interrogation. My handlers told me that, look, it is almost impossible not to speak under interrogation, but whatever you say, say nothing."
Most of the opposition voices in this debate have been saying things, but whatever theysaid, they said nothing.
The Honourable Killian, for instance, rambled on pathetically trying to suggest that the SONA speech was really about the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung. I suppose if your political experience is confined to a faction-riddled formation like COPE then you might be forgiven for thinking that politics is all about faction fights. At least the honourable member knows the venue and the date for the ANC’s next elective conference - Mangaung, December 2012. I wonder if she has the foggiest idea of when COPE’s elective conference is ever going to happen?
Unable to deal intelligently with the substance of the infrastructure plans that the President unveiled, the opposition parties have resorted to a variety of other diversionary tactics.
One such tactic is to attempt to pit different ministers and plans against each other. The National Planning Commission’s National Development Plan, Vision for 2030, for instance, is said to be in contradiction with the New Growth Path and both are said to at variance with the infrastructure plans of the PICC sketched out in the SONA speech. You have to be suffering from a severe dose of ideological cretinism not to recognize the profound and complementary interconnections between all three plans.
The New Growth Path identifies infrastructure construction as one of five, and undoubtedly THE key jobs driver for a new growth path.
The National Planning Commission is not, of course, a government entity, but rather a collective of multi-disciplinary experts drawn from the academic world, research institutes and the private sector. Its excellent "National Development Plan - Vision for 2030" has been presented to cabinet and to the public at large. But it is not yet official government policy as such. No doubt there are some matters of detail that might be at variance with this or that line department’s current policies - but the National Development Plan is, as its subtitle underlines, not a document for detail, but a broad sweep 2030 vision - and in this respect it does an excellent job.
For any doubting Thomases who still believe there is some major contradiction between the NGP vision and the infrastructure-build programme outlined in the SONA - then I would urge them to read - I mean actually READ (with spectacles if necessary - but not with a microscope) READ the excellent chapter 4 of the NDP entitled "Economic Infrastructure". It’s all there, neatly summarized, for instance, on page 137: "Government can achieve coordination of integrated development approaches, particularly pivotal development points (such as the Waterberg/Lephalale region, Coega and the strategic freight corridor from Gauteng to Durban) to ensure full benefits for the country. In these cases,collaborative investment involving a range of interested parties, from business to provincial and local governments, will support better results."
Mr President, in your SONA address you referred to the three deep-seated STRUCTURAL challenges, the three inter-related systemic crises that cut across our economy and society:
Poverty - which has strong racialised, gendered, and geographical characteristics Unemployment - not just cyclical unemployment, fluctuating with growth cycles - but deep-rooted structural unemployment at crisis levels; and Inequality - which is related to the above, and which continues to be marked by structural determinants - where you are born, thecolour of your skin, your gender - all of these realities create a very strong statistical probability of whether you will live in poverty, be unemployed and therefore how you will contribute to the extraordinary levels of inequality in our society. Now, interestingly, writing in the Sunday Times this weekend, in response to your State of Nation Address, the Honourable Mazibuko appeared momentarily to be agreeing with you, Mr President.
She wrote: "I agree with the President’s diagnosis that SA’s problems relate to POVERTY…UNEMPLOYMENT…[and]"….but there is NO "and".
She leaves out "inequality", and this is not accidental. The DA believes not in a more equal society, but in an EQUAL OPPORTUNITY SOCIETY…and that is a very, very different matter indeed.
If you don’t believe me, have a look at the DA’s official website. Click on the Icon "Our Policies", and then scroll down to "The Opportunity Society".
This is how the "Opportunity Society" is described on the website:
"In an opportunity society…your path in life is not determined by the circumstances of your birth, including your material [they don’t like to use the word ‘wealth’] and ‘demographic’ [they don’t like to use the word ‘race’] circumstances, but rather by your [individual] talents and your [individual] efforts. That is why, in an opportunity society, a child born in poverty [clearly in the DA’s opportunity society, children will still be born in grinding poverty] should nevertheless be able to become a brain surgeon, provided he [I assume the DA means "he" or "she"?] has the talent and puts in the effort required to succeed."
There you have it. The "opportunity" society. It’s a kind of B-grade version of Oprah Winfrey’s world outlook - "if you want it bad enough, you can get it." A myopic, self-satisfied and ultimately cruel illusory outlook for the majority of South Africans.
This kind of view comes from a Party that treats the HIV testing campaign not as a campaign of personal responsibility and collective solidarity, but as a market-place lottery competition - in which you too could be a winner.
Now, nobody on this side of the House is claiming the circumstances of one’s birth are absolutely determining. Individual effort is important, of course. Differences in individual aptitude do exist, yes. Certainly, nobody on this side of the House is arguing that those born into grinding poverty should fold their arms and feel sorry for themselves. The majority of my ANC comrades (beginning with you Mr President) were indeed born into a social reality in which everything was stacked against you and them. They (and you) are here, because they (and you) struggled against these material realities - individually, of course, but also collectively not just to advance themselves so that they could become "brain surgeons"- but to transform the deep-seated structural realities of our society for everyone..
The DA, a party without a history - or rather a history that it does not want to own up to - is genetically unwilling to recognise the way in which a long history weighs down heavily upon us. It is a history that continues to structurally shape our present South African reality in a thousand ways.
They will tell us: "You have been in power for nearly 18 years, you can’t go on blaming apartheid." Of course, we shouldn’t blame "apartheid" for our own shortcomings and mistakes.
But it’s not just a question of "apartheid" and it is not about "blaming". Apartheid formally existed for a little over forty years. But the history that continues to shape our society goes back three-and-a-half centuries. It is a history of genocidal attacks on the San and Khoi peoples; of the slave system here in the Cape, which has left a continuing imprint; of ethnic cleansing over several decades in the misnamed "frontier" wars; of the migrant labour system, concentration-camp style compounds, pass laws and racial taxes, put in place not by the Apartheid regime, but by colonial governments at the insistence of the big mining houses; it’s the history of the 1909 Act of Union, and the 1913 Land Act, which formally dispossessed the African majority of 87% of the land oftheir birth. It’s a history of the Segregation years under the Smuts government which laid the basis for our racialised urban spaces, in which the working class is confined to the periphery in dormitory township, and then, of course, it’s the history of latter day apartheid.
To imagine that the structural impact of all of this can be un-done in the space of a mere 18 years is infantile.
But IF it is not just a question of "apartheid", it is also not primarily a question of "blaming" - the point is to try, together, to understand the deeply ingrained structural features of our society and economy that continue to reproduce racialised poverty, racialised inequality and racialised unemployment.
Without understanding and transforming these structural features, we will not achieve the non-racial, non-sexist, more egalitarian, democratic and prosperous SA to which (I would like to believe) we all aspire.
Mr President let me give one small, but multi-billion rand example of the manner in which a particular history has continued to shape the structural features of our economy. In your SONA, Mr President, you announced that Transnet’s National Port Authority, following the intervention of the National Ports Regulator, will be rebating the port tariff charges on manufactured goods from SA to the tune of some R1billion.
Behind that announcement lies a revealing story. The National Ports Regulator, which is a relatively new entity, has uncovered a symptomatic anomaly. The port tariff charges on our bulk mineral exports (coal and iron ore) are significantly BELOW the global average. But the port tariffs on our manufactured goods going out of the country are massively ABOVE the global average. Our manufacturing sector has been cross-subsidising the mining sector. This is part and parcel of a deep history, in which SA was developed and linked into the global economy as a semi-peripheral exporter of unprocessed mineral products. Over a century - water pricing, electricity pricing, rail and port logistics pricing, the infrastructural, spatial configuration of our country - all of these factors have been biased towards the interests of the mineral and financial conglomerates, and biased against small and medium enterprises and the manufacturing sector.
When we speak of addressing the legacy of the past and establishing a more balanced, a more shared growth path, then it is precisely these kinds of structural anomalies (part of our deep history) that we have in mind.
In her speech yesterday, the Honourable Mazibuko gave us a vision (a pipe-dream) of a SA under DA rule. "We will build bridges", she told us, between white and black, rich and poor, urban and rural. Again, as with the rhetoric about an "Open Society", the metaphor of the limitations behind the DA agenda.
The fact is that there have ALWAYS been "bridges" between white and black, rich and poor, urban and rural. From the late 19th century through the years of internal colonialism and apartheid, the black majority in our country was excluded, of course. But it was never just a matter of exclusion - it was always exclusion from citizenship, from prime agricultural land, from resourced suburbs, from skills, from business premises, in order to squeeze black people into an inferior inclusion on regimented terms within the economy of our country - basically as cheap labour. There were plenty of bridges between so-callednative reserves and mining towns - recruitment agencies, pass law offices, railway-lines - and, just to make sure that migrant labourers actually got onto the bridge - there was a host of coercive motivational factors - hut tax, head tax, more land dispossession. Later, as urbanization gathered pace, the same pattern of exclusion (to distant dormitory townships) and inferior inclusion (buses, trains) happened.
It’s not a question of building bridges, but a question of abolishing this systemic pattern of exclusion and inferior inclusion of the majority. That is why, Mr President, your announcement in the SONA of an April starting date for the R1-billion guarantee fund to be administered by the National Housing Finance Corporation to address the housing market gap - between those who are entitled to a subsidized RDP house, and those, basically the working class, like Mzukisi Mali from Fingo Village, whose income level is too high to qualify, but who are spurned by the banks when they seek a mortgage. Interestingly, this important announcement has passed by without comment from the opposition. They want bridges between rich and poor, between suburbs and townships - they have less appetite for abolishing the divide itself. This measure is part and parcel of one of the key infrastructure projects identified by the PICC - the transformation of our urban spaces, with mixed-income, mixed-use human settlements, with medium density development along good public transport corridors. This is a vision of democratic, non-racial urban spaces - quite different from the idea of charitable bridges.
Speaking of which reminds us that the Honourable Mazibuko is also wrong to think that the prime contradiction is between urban and rural, for instance. In fact, the real contradiction is between "two countrysides" (a white/corporate owned commercial farming countryside and a former Bantustan countryside in which one-third of South Africans live). The real contradiction is also WITHIN our urban spaces - between townships (poverty traps) and leafy suburbs. It’s not bridges that we need - it’s TRANSFORMATION.
And it is systemic, structural transformation that lies at the heart of the bold infrastructural programme that you unveiled in the SONA address, Mr President. Contrary to the Hon. Lekota’s confused understanding, it is not just a question of building a bridge, or a road, or a railway line - but creating jobs, of building skills, of unlocking mineral resources, of connecting primary production to our manufacturing sector, of opening up impoverished regions of our country, and of transforming our national, urban and rural space.
In advancing this line of march, Mr President, you have the support of the ANC, you have the support of the overwhelming number South Africans, business as well as unions… and, notwithstanding the "ifs" and "buts", it clear you have the grudging support of the opposition parties in this House as well. That is a good thing, if we are to succeed with this bold plan we all need to work in a concerted way.