Media Q&A: RET: Critical media questions for the ANC Policy Conference

03 July 2017
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Radical economic transformation (RET) must happen. For over 40 years the Free Market Foundation (FMF) has been promoting real radical economic transformation and a fundamental deviation from South Africa’s mainstream economic policies. Current ANC and government policies promote more of the same and lack radical thinking.

RET can only be achieved if we break from the economic mentality which has governed this country since colonial times – paternal statism – and adopt the only alternative which has been shown to deliver a better standard of living for all anywhere in the world – the free market system.

Ahead of the ANC’s national policy conference, FMF proposes the policy alternatives detailed in the media releases below sent in the last few weeks and suggests critical questions for the media to ask of the ANC.

FMF has supported a radical departure from the economic orthodoxy in South Africa since its foundation in 1975 and four guiding principles underpin all of FMF policy proposals:

  1. The right of all people to live their lives as they see fit
  2. The right of all people to own and control property and its produce
  3. The right of all people to be free from violence or the threat of it
  4. The free market economy is the only economic system consistent with these principles.

Read more: President Zuma is right! We need Radical Economic Transformation
Read: ANC Conference must adopt real radical economic transformation – not more of the same paternal statism

FMF proposals for RET policy

  1. COMMUNICATIONS
  2. Economic transformation: MONEY AND TAX
  3. Economic transformation: ELECTRICITY
  4. Economic transformation: LABOUR
  5. Economic transformation: DECENTRALISATION
  6. Social transformation: LAND
  7. Education, health, science and technology: EDUCATION
  8. Education, health, science and technology: HEALTH
  9. Legislature and governance: RULE OF LAW
  10. Peace and stability: CRIME

1. COMMUNICATIONS

Communications is a crucial aspect of public policy. The FMF has undertaken two recent and significant communications projects: a review of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Policy and the Hate Speech Bill. Read more: ANC Conference must reject ICT White Paper and Hate Speech Bill for South Africa to drop Apartheidesque communications policy

Suggested Media Questions

  1. The ICT Policy White Paper has been panned in civil society for the lack of good faith public participation and that carefully selected industry groups were consulted to achieve the right outcomes i.e. support for the white paper. Is this true?
  2. Industry players have said that the public engagement opportunities held by the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services did not focus on or even allow discussion on the crucial aspects of the White Paper: the Wireless Open-Access Network (WOAN), spectrum allocation policy and cost-based pricing. Why?
  3. Why was there no serious socio-economic impact assessment – SEIA – as mandated by Cabinet to support new policy? The one that surfaced in February of this year is a rushed and amateur job that does not address the widespread industry opposition to the contentious aspects and appears to only incorporate favourable comments about the White Paper. Why?
  4. The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill’s definition of hate speech – an insult with the intention to bring into contempt or to ridicule someone based on seventeen listed grounds – goes beyond the Constitution’s definition of hate speech. Clearly the Hate Bill falls foul of the right to freedom of expression in our Constitution – do you propose to change the Bill or the Constitution?
  5. South Africa already has a law dealing with hate speech – why do we need an ominous kneejerk Hate Bill? Is it to prevent public and embarrassing criticism of politicians?
  6. Under the new Hate Bill’s generous definition of hate speech saying lawyers are parasites could land you in jail. Is this what you intended? Isn’t this an unjustifiable assault on individual freedom?

2. ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION: MONEY AND TAX

Current and proposed taxation policies, exchange controls and regressive financial services legislation are backward looking to an apartheid era of state intervention, authoritarianism and control of citizen’s lives. Read more: Radical economic transformation means South Africans keep and control their own money

Suggested Media Questions

  1. The apartheid government used strict exchange control regulation and heavy direct and indirect taxes to support its ideological programmes. Isn’t the ANC government doing the same? Should citizens be allowed more control over their own money?
  2. Foreign investors view strict exchange controls as a sign South Africa is closed for business. Why continue with this damaging apartheid policy?
  3. Taxes on the wealth inevitably trickle down to the poor in the form of stagnant wages and higher prices. Why not lower taxes to encourage growth, employment and a lower cost of living?
  4. The FMF’s proposal for a flat tax would see a broadening of the tax base, improve incentives to invest, make tax evasion more difficult and less lucrative, increase economic growth, raise local investment and create new jobs by increasing real wages. What’s not to like about flat tax?
  5. The Davis Tax Committee is considering imposing higher inheritance taxes. Since leaving wealth to one’s descendants is one of the biggest incentives to invest how would this help SA’s prosperity?  

3. ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION: ELECTRICITY

Energy policy is in urgent need of radical transformation. Radical policy would be to discard the strategy followed by the apartheid government and remove or drastically reduce the role of government in energy. The radically transformative 1998 White Paper proposed liberalising SA’s energy sector, introducing competition among suppliers and giving South Africans the right to choose their electricity supplier. It was never implemented. Read more: For radical economic transformation in energy, adopt the 1998 White Paper

Suggested Media Questions

  1. Why was the 1998 White Paper never implemented?
  2. Will the ANC privatise Eskom given the crisis of leadership, governance and strategic direction?
  3. Will private electricity providers be allowed to enter the market any time soon?
  4. Has the DOE considered all submissions from all interested parties in its latest IRP consultations? Why are some highly critical reports not on the DOE website?  

4. ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION: LABOUR

Nine million people in South Africa need real radical economic transformation (RET) to eradicate the failed economic policies that have condemned them to unemployment and severely retarded South Africa’s growth. South Africa’s archaic labour policy is a major reason that this country has one of the world’s highest rates of unemployment and low economic growth. Historically, South Africa’s labour regime is marked by restrictive labour policies aimed at suppressing broad-based labour market engagement. Read more: Yes – introduce radical economic transformation in labour policy and help 9 million unemployed 

Suggested Media Questions

  1. Job creation be top of the policy agenda now that SA has more people receiving social grants than employed – but is it? Labour policy says otherwise and protects those in work at the expense of the unemployed.
  2. Is the national minimum wage of R3 500 a month still a good idea given the latest employment statistics?
  3. Section 22 of the Constitution gives South Africans the freedom to choose their occupation – but a NMW means criminalising those willing to work for less. How can any government justify this?
  4. Is government aware of the FMF proposal for job seekers’ exemption certificates to allow the unemployed who are unable to find work at the NMW, to work legally for less for a period of time to gain skills and experience? Will it be adopted?
  5. Why introduce a NMW when SA’s growth is essentially zero. It will mean more job losses and less economic activity.  

5. ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION: DECENTRALISATION

“Amandla! Awethu!” means power to the people – not government. Under apartheid, government not only controlled every consequential detail of South Africans’ lives, it also ensured that bureaucracies, rather than elected representatives, made the decisions that governed those lives. Decentralisation of government controlled activities and services would be a good way to start the RET-ball rolling. Read more: “Amandla! Awethu!” means power to the people, not government – it’s time to decentralise!

Suggested Media Questions

  1. Given that the Constitution provides for original powers for all three levels of government – national, provincial, and local, why do we still have a one-size-fits-all approach to policy?
  2. SA’s SEZs – Special Economic Zones – are special in name only. When will government adopt the Chinese approach and offer industry real special incentives like lower taxes, less regulation and exemptions from stringent labour laws?
  3. Why does the government continue to violate the separation of powers by increasingly centralising power? A pertinent current example is in Financial Services and the establishment of judicial tribunals and non elected law-making bodies.
  4. Government is failing to deliver basic services across the country. Why not let the private sector get involved? Services would be more efficient and far better value for money.  

6. SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION: LAND

President Zuma puts land reform high on the RET agenda, yet government land policies maintain apartheid era thinking and prevent the real social and radical change required in urban and rural land ownership. The FMF has long championed the cause of converting various forms of apartheid title found in townships to full, unambiguous ownership for the current tenants. Read more: 23 years post-apartheid, South Africa needs to be radical about land reform

Suggested Media Questions

  1. Why has government failed to rectify apartheid era group area law and land tenure since 1994? Many mainly black citizens continue to live on council-owned property throughout the country.
  2. Why do RDP house contracts continue to include apartheid style pre-emptive clauses that disallow owners selling the property for seven years, and after that may only sell back to government?
  3. When will the ANC instruct the many municipalities who are failing to assist township inhabitants to acquire the title deeds to their homes, to comply with ULTRA – the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Act.
  4. Latest government policy in the form of the Regulation of Agricultural Land Holdings Bill essentially disallows foreign ownership of agricultural property. The Constitution empowers government to right the wrongs of apartheid – restitution – not government ownership or redistribution. Will the ANC comply with the Constitution?  

7. EDUCATION, HEALTH, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: EDUCATION

Radical economic transformation in education should be at the top of the ANC policy agenda. The latest unemployment figures are testimony not only to a failing economy but to a failed education system that is pouring out unemployable young people. FMF has consistently called for the abolition of the 200-year-old archaic education system and moving toward demand – led education: a radically transformed future where education is decentralised, relevant, and affordable. Read more: Education needs radical transformation. Don’t leave our children in the apartheid era 

Suggested Media Questions

  1. South Africa’s public primary education system has consistently featured among the world’s worst, despite education being a big budget item. Why is there no correlation between ‘quality’ and how much is spent?
  2. Why not implement a school voucher system – whereby government does not provide education, but pays for the private education of citizens – as a potential alternative to our current failing education system?
  3. Has the ANC considered the FMF proposal to abandon standardised curricula to allow schools and universities to compete on which offers the best, most affordable and most useful curriculum? If not, why?  

8. EDUCATION, HEALTH, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: HEALTH

Affordable and quality healthcare is critically important to fight unemployment and poverty and achieve radical economic transformation. FMF advocates responsible healthcare policy and opposes the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme as dangerous and unnecessary and it will have the damaging and unintended consequence of destroying SA’s internationally acclaimed private healthcare industry. Read more: Radical healthcare transformation: Bring healthcare back to the people and away from government

Suggested Media Questions

  1. Certain life-saving drugs do not reach the market quick enough because of long, drawn-out approval processes. Has government considered the FMF and industry proposal that it identifies trusted foreign health regulators and piggyback off their approvals of the same drugs to unlock the backlog?
  2. Deregulating the medical industry will increase competition and provide more access to quality healthcare – but NHI will deliver the opposite. Why?
  3. Informed commentators say that NHI will destroy the private healthcare industry, a flagship in Africa. Why is government forcing NHI through against fierce opposition and without a fully costed plan?  

9. LEGISLATURE AND GOVERNANCE: RULE OF LAW

South Africa’s democracy is founded on the “supremacy of the constitution and rule of law.” Nelson Mandela said, “[The rule of law] refers to a structural exercise of rule as opposed to the idiosyncratic will of kings and princes. Even where the latter may express itself benevolently the former is morally and politically superior.” The foundations of a true democratic society depend on this concept and all governments and political parties must abide by the rule of law. Read more: Radical legal transformation: Embrace Mandela’s rule of law not apartheid arbitrary governance 

Suggested Media Questions

  1. Does government support the rule of law? The widespread discretionary power granted to officials says otherwise.
  2. The ANC has called for the number of provinces to be reduced. Is this a good idea given that it will take power away from the people to have their government closer to where they live?  

10. PEACE AND STABILITY: CRIME

South Africa is renowned globally for violent crime and rape. Safety and security is correctly on the conference agenda. Decriminalising victimless crimes, removing incentives for corruption within discretionary powers and keeping the judiciary independent would be a good start. Read more: Radical criminal justice reform: Decriminalise victimless conduct and keep our judiciary independent  

Suggested Media Questions

  1. South Africa has a very serious drug use problem. It makes sense to decriminalise drug use and distribution and help, rather than imprison, addicts – does the ANC support this and if not, why?
  2. There is often a direct correlation between corruption and the discretionary powers granted to that official in legislation or regulations. Cutting back on discretionary powers in legislation would help to combat corruption – why not do this?
  3. SAPS resource is limited. Will the ANC support the plan to devoting more police resources to combating violent crimes against people and property, rather than wasting it on pursing prostitutes, drug users, and traffic offenders who have not violated anyone else’s rights?
  4. The ANC has said it wants to include progressivism and social activism in the appointment criteria for future judges. But – does the ANC agree or not – that it is more important to ensure judges adhere to the Constitution rather than political considerations?
  5. The proliferation of laws across all sectors of society potentially makes criminals out of ordinary citizens who are not aware of how the law applies to them. Should the ANC consider conducting a legislative review to repeal, simplify and consolidate laws to make them easier to find and understand? 
 

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