ADDRESS BY ANC DEPUTY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA AT THE SOUTH AFRICAN COMMUNIST PARTY GALA DINNER, EMPERORS PALACE, EKURHULENI, 23 June 2017
Leadership of the South African Communist Party,
Comrades and friends,
It gives me great pleasure to greet you – the leaders, supporters and friends of the SACP – on the occasion of this gala dinner.
We meet here in the Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo, as we celebrate the 100thanniversary of his birth.
During this year, we have dedicated ourselves to honour his memory by restoring to our movement the values that he represented and the principles for which he stood.
During this year, we have dedicated ourselves to pursue with greater focus and determination his vision of a South Africa in which black and white shall live and work together as equals in conditions of peace and prosperity.
We have dedicated ourselves to strengthen the Alliance as an effective instrument of fundamental change.
It was on the occasion of the 60thanniversary of the SACP in 1981 that Oliver Tambo described our Alliance in the following terms.
“The relationship between the ANC and the SACP is not an accident of history, nor is it a natural and inevitable development…
“To be true to history, we must concede that there have been difficulties as well as triumphs along our path, as, traversing many decades, our two organisations have converged towards a shared strategy of struggle.
It is this shared strategy of struggle that binds our two organisations – the ANC and the SACP – together.
Certainly, we are bound together by a shared history of struggle.
But far more important than that, we are bound together by a shared commitment to the liberation of our people from all forms of oppression and exploitation.
We are not bound together by electoral alliances or pacts of convenience.
We are bound together by the shared vision of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
As the decades have passed, and as the struggle has moved onto a new terrain, the need for a united, strong and effective Alliance has never been greater.
The organisational challenges we face, the social and economic realities we must confront and the forces of reaction that we must defeat, all require that the Alliance must remain intact.
And yet, all is not well within the Alliance.
Each of the components of the Tripartite Alliance – the ANC, SACP and COSATU – are experiencing their own challenges in maintaining the cohesion of their structures and the coherence of their policies and programmes.
At the same time, relations between the components of the Alliance have in recent times been strained.
Different components of the Alliance have taken positions and made public pronouncements that are sharply at odds with each other.
We cannot allow this to continue.
If we do not address the tensions within the Alliance, we will weaken – and perhaps ultimately destroy – the greatest hope that our people have for social and economic freedom.
We must begin now, deliberately and honestly, to work through the differences between our formations.
We need to do so politically, avoiding the temptation to personalise our difficulties.
We need to hold fast to principle, act in a disciplined manner, and place the interests of the people above everything else.
Repairing, uniting and building the Alliance is among the most pressing revolutionary tasks of the moment.
I firmly believe that, as in the past, we are up to the task.
Comrades and Friends,
It is fitting that, as we celebrate the life of Oliver Tambo, we reflect on what his legacy means for the South Africa which we are seeking to build.
It is exactly 40 years since OR Tambo addressed our combatants in Angola on the challenges of seizing power.
He warned of the difficulties of meeting the expectations of the masses.
Above all, he said, avoid repeating the mistakes of the enemy.
As we gather here at this moment in the history of our revolution, 23 years after seizing power in a democratic election, we are bound to reflect on those words.
For we are in danger of repeating the mistakes of the enemy.
There are signs that we may not have learnt the lessons of history.
There are signs that we may have taken for granted that our revolutionary movement would never succumb to the corrosivecurrents of political power.
In considering the state of our country and our movement, we should acknowledge that there is much to be concerned about.
In doing so, we should not surrender to the feverish narrative of the opposition forces, which seek to deny the outstanding achievements of the last two decades.
We cannot deny that the ANC, its Alliance partners and the people of this country have made profound progress in fundamentally changing South Africa for the better.
But as a revolutionary movement, we are bound also to recognise where we have made mistakes, where we have fallen short, where we have taken a wrong turn.
And as a revolutionary movement, we must correct our mistakes and return to the path that leads to the complete liberation of our people.
The enemy that we confronted in the struggle to defeat apartheid made the mistake of thinking that power was a substitute for justice.
It thought, incorrectly, that the might of the state was more powerful and enduring than the will of the people.
We need to scrupulously avoid making a similar mistake.
We occupy positions of responsibility solely at the behest of the people and solely to serve their interests.
The resources that we have to deploy, to manage and to account for, belong to the people and may only be used to improve their lives.
They may not be used to benefit ourselves or our friends.
The policies we adopt, the laws we enact, the regulations we enforce are solely intended to serve the needs of our people.
They are not meant to secure advantage for narrow interests or unduly benefit those that are well-connected.
We cannot accept in any manner, shape or form the notion that state entities are being used to divert contracts to particular individuals and families.
We cannot accept any such practices, because they stand in fundamental opposition to the values of the movement that Oliver Tambo led for three decades.
We cannot accept any such practices because they rob the poor and the marginalised not only of the resources that are due to them, but also of the better future that has been promised them.
The apartheid enemy had a callous disregard for the rights of the people and the responsibilities of a constitutional state.
For all their talk of law and order, the apartheid leaders undermined even their own draconian legislation when it served their needs.
Beyond the law, they had a covert apparatus that was a law unto itself, with little regard even for the courts of a discredited minority regime.
We must not make a similar mistake, thinking that the constitutional covenant on which our democratic nation is built can be readily changed to serve parochial interests.
Our Constitution must not be tampered with.
The institutions of our democracy must not be undermined.
We must view with concern suggestions that the constitutional mandate of institutions like the Reserve Bank should be summarily changed.
These are matters that must be approached deliberately, supported by evidence, buttressed by solid arguments, and widely canvassed.
They need to be approached with a comprehensive understanding of the contribution that such institutions make to the stability of our economy, and, hence, the contribution that such institutions make to our ability to fulfil our mandate for fundamental transformation.
We must equally be concerned about the development of a culture in which it is possible to burn down schools, destroy libraries and set fire to city halls to draw attention to a grievance.
It cannot be correct that schools are closed for weeks because of protests over a road.
We must build a society where those in power are responsive to the cries of the people.
We must build a society where those who have grievances raise their concerns without doing damage to their own interests and those of others.
Unlike the South Africa of old, we need to have mechanisms to manage conflict, mediate differences and address the concerns of the people.
The apartheid rulers made another fundamental mistake – they thought that their economy could survive the isolation of international sanctions.
As we know, their economy couldn’t survive.
Instead, the final years of apartheid were characterised by dwindling investment, rising unemployment, a growing budget deficit and spiraling debt.
The apartheid rulers also made the mistake of thinking that an economy that effectively excluded the majority of the people could be sustainable.
Even now, two decades later, we are living with the legacy of this fundamentally skewed economic approach.
We should not make the mistake of thinking that we can grow a successful economy that creates jobs and opportunities for all without investment.
We operate in a global environment where we need to compete with other countries for capital, jobs and trading opportunities.
We need to develop an environment that is conducive to productive investment that creates jobs and advances the interests of our people.
We need to significantly increase the levels of investment in the country’s economic and social infrastructure.
For that we need, among other things, access to affordable finance that does not consign future generations to permanent indebtedness.
That is why we need to care about things like investor confidence, sovereign credit ratings and competitiveness rankings.
But at the same time, we need to act with purpose and speed to fundamentally change the structure of our economy.
We must undo not only the concentration of economic power in the hands of white, mostly male, South Africans, but we must also end the dominance by just a few companies of critical sectors of the economy.
We must diversify our economy both in terms of who owns, controls and benefits from it, but also in terms of what it produces, manufactures and exports.
We must, in short, undertake a process of radical economic transformation for shared and inclusive growth.
We must undertake a process of radical economic transformation that draws on all the resources and capabilities of our people.
And we must do so by bringing together all sectors of society into a social compact for growth and transformation.
Just as we fought to achieve consensus on the principles, values and progressive provisions of our Constitution, so too should we strive to build consensus on the economic path we must necessarily follow.
It is this imperative that should inform our approach to critical transformative instruments such as the Mining Charter.
If we are to succeed in transforming an industry like mining, we need to make sure that the process is inclusive and the outcomes broadly accepted.
We need to understand the economics of such an industry, its exposure to fluctuations in global demand, its dependence on capital investment and the significant delay between startup and the realisation of returns.
We also need to understand how, even now, it continues to resemble the apartheid mining model and how fundamentally it needs to change.
That is why it is critical to engage on the measures we need to take to transform the industry and ensure that it is able to grow, thrive and create jobs.
We should indeed pursue black ownership targets that are ambitious, particularly those that relate to communities and workers.
We need a mining charter that delivers real benefit to the people whose land is being mined and that those who work in those mines have a proper share in the fruits of their labour.
We know from other industries that it is possible to both pursue meaningful transformation and increase levels of investment in the industry.
Managed correctly, transformation should make industries like mining more stable, more sustainable and more attractive to investors.
We are hopeful that the engagements that are currently taking place on the issue of the Mining Charter will achieve such an outcome.
Comrades and Friends,
The SACP has been a consistent champion of real and fundamental radical economic transformation.
Not only has it provided intellectual rigour to policy debates within the Alliance and broader society, but it has also taken up popular campaigns to effect real change in people’s lives.
The SACP has, for example, led the financial sector campaign to ensure that financial services are available and affordable for the poor.
Over many years, it has mobilised, organised and agitated for the transformation of one of the most vital, yet unrepresentative, sectors of our economy.
In doing so, it has made the critical point that the transformation of our economy – indeed, of our society – cannot be left to charters and codes and legislation alone.
Transformation requires the active involvement of the masses of our people.
They need to be engaged in campaigns and programmes that bring about change in the areas that most affect them.
Even in difficult times like these – where the ANC and the Alliance are facing numerous challenges – the SACP continues to provide steady and consistent leadership on important matters of principle.
Although not unaffected by the impact of incumbency on our movement, the SACP has remained steadfast in its commitment to the values of the revolutionary Alliance and vocal in condemning practices that undermine the struggle for a national democratic society.
More than that, the SACP continues to provide us with the analytical tools that we need to understand the ideological and political currents within which we find ourselves today.
The relationship between the ANC and the SACP is not an accident of history, nor is it a natural and inevitable development. For, as we can see, similar relationships have not emerged in the course of liberation struggles in other parts of Africa.
Allow me to conclude with some more of the celebrated words of OR Tambo on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the SACP.
He went on to say:
“Ours is not merely a paper alliance, created at conference tables and formalised through the signing of documents and representing only an agreement of leaders. Our alliance is a living organism that has grown out of struggle... It has been reinforced by a common determination to destroy the enemy and by our shared belief in the certainty of victory.”
Tonight, as we celebrate and salute the SACP, we can confirm that the words of Oliver Tambo still ring true.
We will have difficulties as well as triumphs along our path.
But we will always be bound together by our shared belief in the certainty of victory.
I thank you.
Issued by the SACP, 23 June 2017