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We need a new beginning‚ fresh and selfless leadership and a collective that finds a cause bigger than itself – Mathews Phosa

Mathews Phosa‘It’s time to slaughter the holy cows’

TIME FOR RADICAL THINKING

It is a great honour to join you at this prestigious Gala Dinner and Year End Function of the Chamber. It is heart-warming to see how this organisation, which sprung from a challenged society in 1991, thrives in a challenging business and social environment today.

I salute each and every member of the Phalaborwa Chamber of Business for their on-going contributions and participation in organisations such as this Chamber for the benefits that it brings to local trade, job creation, and social stability and development.

I would like to remind you all that organisations such as these hardly succeed by accident.

It takes dedicated leaders, committed and successful members, a supportive workplace culture, perseverance and hard work.

Let me immediately address the proverbial elephant in the room; namely the judgement today of the Constitutional Court that the President acted illegally and in violation of the Constitution.

Our Democracy is safe! With the ruling handed down in the Constitutional Court today, one of the most important tests of the Democratic principles contained in our Constitution has been tested and passed. We can sleep with ease tonight in the knowledge that nobody and no actions are above the law.

The President’s occupation of his current position has become even more controversial than before. The whole country now waits with baited breath to hear whether he, and my party, the ANC, will do the right thing and relieve us of this crippling nightmare. We need a new beginning, fresh and selfless leadership and a collective that finds a cause bigger than itself.

With the collapse in commodity prices, business in Phalaborwa became even more challenging. Phalaborwa has suffered from mine closures and massive loss of jobs. This was further exacerbated by the current drought, the impact of which you know much better than me.

This area is mostly rural and potential for agriculture and tourism, as it borders Kruger Park and other lodges, is strong. The community must engage in the beneficiation of assets to form partnerships to allow these assets to become the backbone of growth. Where possible, former mineworkers need to be reskilled, not rejected, and allowed to participate further in the economic success of this community.

In short, succeeding in a tough environment it is about a mind-set: starting at home, from within the community and in businesses around the country. It calls for productivity and excellence in what we all do to make a difference in our own and somebody else’s life.

With South Africa losing its place as the leading economy on the African Continent, we need to take a critical look at the re-engineering of our economy. It equally applies to Phalaborwa, a once thriving mining community, build on wealth extracted from the earth.

When things are going well, we often overlook the danger signs. The signs that points to hardships and suffering when things change, when the ordinary is no longer the way we are used to.

By not taking radical steps to turn around our economy are devaluing our global credibility by the hour. It is time for the next generation of leaders to raise their hands and to say enough is enough; let’s change the way we do things both politically and economically.

The current racial tensions in the country are a reflection of the state of our economy, our nation and our personal sense of disapproval and insecurity. It is also a reflection of the political mood where individual and elite group’s rights are being regarded superior to the collective rights of the nation, prohibiting us to build a superior economy and thriving society.

The race debate lacks oxygen: we have diminished it to an impoverished white versus black discourse. At that level it has become a dangerous debate, adding fire to other areas of discontent, such as the campus unrest and service delivery protests plaguing society at present.

Let’s learn from a 1957 Christmas sermon by Martin Luther King Jr, where he said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness:  only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate:  only love can do that.  I have decided to stick to love.  Hate is too great a burden to bear”.

We often forget that we are all one people, one nation with one flag and one national anthem, where race is secondary to nationhood and nation building.

The Freedom Charter of 1955 never challenged any group or the rights of any race to reside in South Africa. Its main demands were all grouped around equality and freedom of association, movement and equal access to opportunities.

A growing economy will accommodate all qualifying participants and full employment will mean that all economically active individuals will be able to make a meaningful contribution, irrespective of colour.

We must dust off the proven partnership principle and together design and execute economic projects and sectoral investment, including economic infrastructure such as roads, water storage and ensure that such projects are labour intensive and profitable.

It is crucial for business and government to come together to strengthen our economy and our democracy. We must accept that the various stakeholders in such a partnership will not always agree on everything – such is the nature of a democratic society.

The current pretence of cooperation must be discouraged. Stakeholders must agree to disagree without the one painting the other as being less patriotic.

The relationship between government, business and the electorate is symbiotic. For a partnership to survive all sides to the development equation must work towards solutions and none of the parties should impose itself on the other. Let’s stop just talking about the National Development Plan.

Are there skilled black and white members of society that will volunteer their skills to help government achieve its objectives?  Why are they on the margins?

Working together will result in achieving all empowerment objectives without the need for racially biased legislation. We need to unite the Nation, not divide on the basis of race. History has proved that it leads to the worst forms of racism and oppression. Our policies must be investment friendly: we need to welcome investment, not chase investors away.

It is time that we realise that money has no colour, bias or political preference. It does, however, run away at the earliest opportunity before the smell of decay is even detectable by the average person.

For South Africa to succeed in retaking its place in the African economy, structural adjustment and diversification of our economy must be accelerated. We need to follow the example of countries such as Australia, a major exporter of raw materials, where they have made major strides in protecting their economy from the huge swings brought about by changes in commodity prices.

In the current climate where tertiary education and institutions in South Africa are being challenged, the fourth largest Australian export is now education. Their radical thinking and innovation are transforming their economy to become less dependent on commodities and more services orientated.

They are also the main beneficiaries of South African trained skills. These individuals, calling themselves Australians now – the common reference to Perth is Perth-toria or Perth-fontein –contributes their skills and knowledge to growing the economy of another country.

Whilst most of them are lost to us forever, we must start harnessing skills that have been side-lined by some of our policies to allow South Africa to strengthen its economy to take its rightful place in Africa.

We are failing to build an economy with a strong middle class. We are failing to allow every South African the freedom of choosing where to be educated, a career and accompanying economic freedom.  We need a broad non-racial middle class.

Our tertiary and other educational institutions must be realigned to serve the nation as international scouts are swarming all over South Africa offering qualifying students overseas studying opportunities, bursaries and other support. And believe me, it is not only white South African students leaving South Africa to never return.

As to the current attempts by some of us in government to capture control over our universities I would like to say: Hands Off!  They will turn into glorified high schools.

Doing this will not only damage our tertiary education sector, but it will also lead to the degradation of standards and the international recognition of our Universities.

Anyone around here remember the Makerere University in Uganda and its subsequent decline after being captured by the State?

In Kofi Annan’s words, “Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable development.”

Although mining will remain a key export earner for South Africa for a long time into the future, we need to invest its profits wisely.

The mining sector is weak today as a result of 1 many external and internal factors, some of the actions of labour and the reaction of 3 management to the challenges posed by some 4 politicians. To have a strong mining sector that can contribute to the economy the 4 power groups need to align their objectives and work towards restoring the sector as it still has an enormous role to play in the economy of the country.

Furthermore, we need to think, plan and practice diversification.

Starting with manufacturing, we need to align labour demands to production efficiency to gain a global cost advantage in a highly competitive world. Our manufacturing efforts must be focussed on low-end value addition to commodities before exporting it. Raw steel ingots are worth significantly more than iron ore.

The ANC has a mandate to lead all of us – let no one try to hijack or distort our policies to the benefit of a privileged few.

How we respond to opportunities arising from the population increase north of our borders will define our role in the continent and our country forever. To be an asset for growth in Africa, our agricultural practices, from policy right through labour and capital production, needs to be carefully evaluated and aligned.

Not in the future, ladies and gentlemen, but now, immediately!

Community capacitation and the true understanding of land ownership as a production asset will have to get attention. If we fail to remove sentiment around land from the development equation and continue as we have done so far, with large tracks of land lying fallow without support, we are heading for a food security disaster and the creation of a lot of unemployment. Agriculture never exists anywhere without sound extension services and market access.

Holy cows are vigorously defended by those with vested interest.

It is time to take those holy cows to be slaughtered!

The slaughter must start with a review of policies and legislation that keeps this nation from reaching its full potential.

While the cult of personality is dangerous for any democracy, we must guard against entrenching policies that:

• Supports racial division,

• Lack direction,

• Is ambiguous,

• Misguided,

• Concocted to serve power groups and individuals,

• Attack the judiciary,

• Favour opportunists,

• Breeds inefficiency,

• Allow cronyism to thrive,

• Threaten our safety and security,

• Entrench poverty, and

• That allows space for state capture by individuals or groups that were not elected at the ballot box.

We must get rid of any such policies with haste.

As the establishment of a kleptocracy is accelerating, South Africans are painfully watching scavengers trying to raid and loot the State Treasury. These attempts must be resisted and defeated. The Hawks must be careful in perusing their destructive actions against the Minister of Finance in an un-Constitutional way. The Scorpions did not survive their meddling in political affairs and the Hawks can follow the same path if not careful. They derive their constitutional rights not from their own interpretation of it, but from an assessment by the courts; especially where disputes arise as in the above case.

Individuals cannot be allowed to capture the state to further individual goals. Using the African National Congress, with its proud history as a vehicle to inclusive change, there are people that hide behind the Party while attempting to make a mockery of our Constitution. Not in our name please!!  Don’t forget that the allegations about state capture have caused massive pain and trauma to those who believe that liberation literally means a better life for ALL. There are those of us who are ashamed of revelations that unelected economic tourists are in positions more powerful that the most senior elected leaders.

Neither the Party (nor unelected opportunists) can ever be more important than the State!

Not everybody voted for the ANC and even those that voted for the opposition parties needs to feel that the Government is protecting their Constitutional rights.

There are many amongst us who should know better, but have chosen to be compromised beyond remedy.  We have, to our shame, allowed this, and now it is eating us away from the inside tearing us apart.

There is an Afrikaans saying of “meng jouself met die semels en die varke vreet jou op” which applies directly to the conduct of some in the highest echelons of leadership.

I call on all parties to respect Parliament and it’s Institutions. Let us not tell lies, disrupt its workings or misguide its processes for party political gain.

An attack on a functioning Parliament that performs its Constitutional task without fear or favour is an attack on our Constitution. Any attempt by any member or other party of influence to undermine, or in any manner to discredit our Constitution or any of the Chapter 9 institutions, will ultimately destroy our democracy.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

The more I reflect, the more I think, South Africa is at a political and economic crossroads.

The painful question facing us is what is to be done?

We must continue, as a nation, with our struggle to create an economy that will bring lasting freedom from poverty, inequality and unemployment. It is an achievable goal if we all work together and form a united front.

The possibility of junk bond status, supported by redundant African “politics of survival” is challenging our country’s future. The challenges of transformation and the lack of money to fund education could spill over to our farms and factories. We want stable politics and a growing economy.

Now therefore, to achieve that, we want:

• Leaders with integrity;

• Leaders with the required skills and training to proudly represent us all on the international stage – they must be exemplary;

• Leaders that protects the Constitution and put South Africa first;

• A functioning civil service; and ultimately,

• Change at the highest level before the damage done becomes irreparable.

We must, as a general rule, ensure that all corruption is reported to the relevant institutions whose task it is to address all forms of corruption.  Reporting corruption about someone when he or she has actually been accused of corruption is nothing but an elaborate cover up.

We have an economy in trouble, society in turmoil, state capture in the making and rampant sycophancy. When will the Emperor realise that he is naked?

In the Shakespeare, tragedy, on the deathbed of Antony, Cleopatra said:

“ That’s the way it should be—only Antony should conquer Antony.”

Rome is burning and Nero is blaming the Christians.

Democracy is hard work – it is never served on a silver platter!

I thank you for your time and wish the Chamber all the success in the future.

Speech by Mathews Phosa

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