President Jacob Zuma has defended his radical economic transformation policy and warned the opposition against talking about land reform when it had not backed it for years.
Zuma, who was replying to the debate on the State of the Nation Address on Thursday, also told the Freedom Front Plus he was not racist and had nothing against white people.
Zuma said the details on radical economic transformation presented by his economic cluster ministers this week were not rhetoric, but concrete plans.
But analysts have said his comments on Thursday have done little to prove they are anything more than “posturing” for his party before the 2019 elections.
Zuma has been driving the radical economic transformation programme in the past two years, and on Thursday in the Assembly he did not mince his words.
He reiterated his earlier stance that the economy was still in the hands of the few. The government wanted to include more black people in the transformation of the economy.
Zuma said black people should not just be employees but industrialists. He added the fact that radical economic transformation was not rhetoric was explained to the House by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe.
“Minister Radebe pointed out that radical economic transformation is not just political rhetoric,” he said.
“This is a serious programme, and it will be implemented using the strategic levers available to the state,” he said.
“These include legislation, regulations, licensing, budget and procurement as well as broad-based black economic empowerment charters,” said Zuma.
He also lashed out at the DA for accusing the government of a slow pace on land reform.
He said it was ironic that the DA was now talking about land reform when history told a different story about the party.
He said the DA had always been on the side of those who stole the land. He said the land would be returned to the people.
The government had scrapped the willing-buyer, willing-seller principle because farmers were inflating prices for land. The Land Restitution Amendment Bill would address land restitution in the country after it has been fixed by Parliament.
The bill was returned to the national legislature in July after the Constitutional Court judgment.
Zuma also took a swipe at FF+ leader Pieter Groenewald for accusing him of racism during the debate.
Zuma said he was not racist and had never been racist in his life. He said the ANC had taught him non-racism and they were also white people in the trenches during the Struggle. He told Groenewald that affirmative action and BEE policies did not demonstrate hatred of white people.
South Africans were enjoined by the constitution to heal the rifts of the past. Radical economic transformation was part of the healing of the divisions of the past.
“It will be wise to disabuse yourself of the tendency that when we talk about land you talk about hatred,” Zuma said.
He said the government would not do anything outside the law and the constitution to address the racial imbalances of the past.
Political analysts, however, said Zuma had said nothing new regarding his stance on radical economic transformation, and questioned the timing.
“This is just posturing in public and electioneering ahead of the 2019 general elections,” said Professor Shadrack Gutto. He said the ruling party had been in power for 23 years, but questioned what took it so long to implement such policies.
“This indicates the ANC is experiencing pressure from the EFF and sounding like a borrowed stance from the EFF.
“There was nothing that prevented the ANC before, but why now?” he asked.
Another analyst echoed similar sentiments and added there was nothing new in what the president said.
“Zuma had eight years to implement radical economic transformation policies but he didn’t,” said Unisa Professor Lesiba Teffo.
“Even the implementation of this policy would be difficult because he doesn’t have the capacity. “His foot soldiers are contaminated; the ANC cannot save itself from itself,” he said.
Teffo elaborated that it would be a daunting task as the ruling party comprised self-serving individuals who were caught between factions.
“After eight years in office, where does this rhetoric come from?” he wondered.
Another analyst, Ralph Mathekga, said he was concerned about the stance the ANC was adopting as it appeared as though it was attempting to circumvent the constitution in a bid to implement policies.
“The ANC can work around this matter without adopting extreme lengths. They need to keep a calm head because this will set a bad example to the citizens of South Africa. They too will feel that if they have a pressing issue, they can also circumvent the constitution,” he said.