Programme Director; President Cyril Ramaphosa
Other Distinguished Guests present; Comrades and Friends;
Members of the Media; Ladies and Gentlemen;
On behalf of the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation, I would like to begin by sincerely thanking each one of you for carving out time and committing your energies to participate in this inaugural Inclusive Growth Forum.
The genesis of this forum can be traced back to November 2016, a time both different and remarkably similar to the moment we now occupy – with change most acutely felt in the political realm, springing forth from which the nation has been assured of a ‘new dawn’.
This gathering is inspired by a shared belief in the future of South Africa – contingent on collaborative thought, action and investment in the advancement of our democracy, towards the occasioning of a new epoch.
Hence today we bring together a cross-section of South African leaders, motivated by the intent to find intersections in our initiatives, echoes of our objectives and common ground that enables us to employ our collective energies in mapping and implementing a renewed vision for our republic.
The need to strengthen our democracy through multi- sectorial interventions guided by a common and sustained vision is clear.
Above all else, it is my distinct and sincere hope that this conference will inspire us to devote our energies and creative abilities towards bringing forth practical ideas that will propel our nation forward. Through sharing ideas, building consensus and developing implementable action plans, in collaboration with existing initiatives, we can ensure that the potential and goals of the next decade are met.
Today’s programme provides context and scene setting, with a view to constructing a clear understanding on the high-spirited mischief that occasioned the present South African reality. The rest of the weekend is focused on addressing the resultant challenges and reconstructing rough blue-prints for a way forward. In the end, the Foundation will produce a public report that will hopefully contain thoughts and suggestions useful to society.
The focus of this forum is the consolidation of an inclusive South Africa in all respects: politically, economically, socially and culturally.
The concomitant themes to be discussed at this conference, are envisaged as the primary platform for job creation, and central to the on-going process of transformation that remains a pressing need for the majority of South Africans – for whom democracy has not meaningfully and materially translated into qualitative material improvement and dignity.
As BLSA’s CEO Bonang Mohale, who will later be speaking within this afternoon’s session, recently commented: “There is no time to celebrate”.1 Moments that appear to usher in change require, most urgently, the exploits that will ensure the reinforcing of transformative impulses into firm foundations for an altered future.
The need for inclusive growth within our dual economy is occasioned by interconnecting features of our fiscal landscape.
The South African nation is presently one of the most unequal nations in the world.
According to the World Bank:
‘The poorest 20% of the South African population consume less than 3% of total expenditure, while the wealthiest 20% consume 65%.’2
Recent reports on inequality, acknowledge that ‘three billionaires own the same wealth as the poorest half of the population’3. Additionally, GDP growth in the first quarter this year has shrunk by 2.2%, with the largest losses experienced in agriculture and mining. Statistics South Africa has acknowledged this to be the biggest margin of contraction since the first quarter of 2009, where the economy contracted by 6.1%4.
Furthermore, the last year has been dominated by discourse that draws attention to the wide-reaching extent of state capture and scourge of corruption, dually intersecting in unethical business and political partnerships, crises in our State-Owned Enterprises (SoEs) and repeated demonstrations that divisions along historical lines of race and class and aspects of identity continue to haunt the present, threatening social cohesion and reconciliatory efforts.
These realities were distressingly and urgently visible in the public hearings of the High Level Panel (HLP) on the Assessment of Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental Change, held around three primary thematic areas.
- Firstly, Poverty, Unemployment and the equitable distribution of Wealth’
- Secondly, Land reform – restitution, redistribution and security of tenure; and
- Lastly, Social Cohesion and Nation Building.
Keeping these themes in mind, joined with the broad topical items on the programme, this forum consequently seeks to provide interventions and sustainable solutions that are rooted in the human rights ethos of the constitution and addressing the goals of the National Development Plan and the pressing triad of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
In addressing many of these contemporary challenges – which are not unique to South Africa, as they have global resonances – it is evident that we require radical perspectives as we attempt to transform the political, historical and social landscape of South Africa.
This forum seeks to find practical solutions of ‘Inclusive Growth’ that moves beyond discourse towards action-oriented endeavours – pulled from abstraction into reality.
We must focus on the creation of an economy and associated policies that benefit all in our society, replete with equity of health, sensitivity to environmental challenges and climate change, awareness of human potential, social protection for the most vulnerable in our society, and wide-reaching structural change along historical lines of division.
Our divergent and diverse approaches to the challenges of the contemporary epoch can be condensed into effective collaborative approaches, across sectors. By bringing leaders from all sectors of society into an intimate environment, we hope to inspire productive dialogue that translates into meaningful action.
The conference will feature conversations around:
- The contemporary South African context,
- The role of youth, the media, business, public sector institutions, labour and civil society,
- Strengthening the state,
- The effect of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,
- Land, jobs and poverty,
- Rural development, and
- Social cohesion,
- With a keynote address by President Cyril Ramaphosa and concluding remarks by Premier David Makhura.
Critically, the conference will also highlight numerous significant youth voices.
Indeed, our gathering falls over our Youth Day weekend, an occasion synchronised to remind us of the centrality of youth in these matters.
South Africa is a young country. As Statistics South Africa reported in their mid-year population estimates:
‘About 29,6% of the population is aged younger than 15 years and approximately 8,1% (4,60 million) is 60 years or older.’5
As we seek to engage around transformation and growth, we are reminded that young minds, voices and energies have historically pushed social change, driven shifts in political movements, occasioned innovation and new economic interventions and impelled significant transformations across societies.
As Indian children’s rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Kailash Satyarthi noted:
‘The power of youth is the common wealth for the entire world. The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present and our future. No segment in the society can match with the power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage of the young people’.
The future that we collectively create and mould is one that will be inherited by future generations. Hence we act with posterity in mind.
In conclusion, I look forward to the robust discussions, challenging perspectives and meaningful partnerships that will be built over the course of the weekend.
Today marks the start of what the foundation trustees and me hope will become an annual event on our collective calendars.
Addressing the dilemmas of our democracy is no easy task, but one that must be treated with the gravity, sensitivity and humanity it deserves.
We do so with the knowledge and belief that the absolute attainment of the ideals and rights that infuse the Constitution is possible.
We do so inspired by the legacies of those who built this democratic nation and in service of keeping their ideals, ethics and vision alive.
And finally, we do so believing that, to quote the late Steve Biko:
‘In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift – a more human face.’
Once again, many thanks for coming and special thanks go President Cyril Ramaphosa who in his busy schedule agreed to honour this gathering by delivering the opening address.
I would also like to express our gratitude to our host, Mr Roger Marcquet, his family and the staff of Champagne Sport’s Resort.
We are grateful to all the eminent presenters, funders and participants.
Last but not least, we thank the trustees and staff of the KMF in preparing for this momentous forum.
Thank you for your kind attention.