ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa addresses Nelson Mandela celebration. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa addresses Nelson Mandela celebration. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

The economy is set to take centre stage in the ANC’s election manifesto to be outlined by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday, through tackling the “growth inhibiting structure” of the economy and would also include an industrial strategy.

Speaking at a gala dinner on Friday night, Ramaphosa said the manifesto was a “bold plan” to address poverty, unemployment and inequality, informed by both the Freedom Charter and the National Development Plan.

The governing party’s manifesto will be keenly watched for its capacity to turnaround the ailing economy, marked by persistently low growth and stubbornly high unemployment levels.

The 2019 poll is set to be the toughest yet for the party whose dominance in the electoral space has been on the decline since 2009, with its national share of the vote dropping to an all time low of 56% in the 2016 local government election.

Ramaphosa on Friday night said the ANC had “lost its way”, with factionalism, corruption and patronage “betrayed the principles” of the party. But he added that the party had heeded the concerns of citizens and moved to turn around the situation, addressing corruption and stabilising key institutions in the last year.

“The manifesto that we are launching tomorrow builds on the work done over the last 25 years and sustains the momentum of the last year.

“Our manifesto is about transforming the economy to serve all people. It builds on the recently announced stimulus and recovery plan and sets out our key commitments to change the structure of the economy.

“It identifies the fundamental challenge that too many people are unemployed, particularly among the youth, and too many jobs are lowly paid and insecure,” he said at the gala dinner on Friday.

“Our manifesto calls on the public, private sector, communities and government to work together to build a successful economy and bridge the gap between skills and the labour market, including the implementation of mass apprenticeship opportunities for young men and women.”

He said the manifesto would build on the outcomes of the Presidential Jobs Summit.

Ways to expand worker ownership in a mixed economy can be expected from the manifesto as well as a plan to accelerate “sustainable land reform”, Ramaphosa said, using measures such as the expropriation of land without compensation.

“We will address monopolies, excessive economic concentration, abuse of dominance by large corporations and the growth-inhibiting structure of the economy. We will do this through a more effective competition policy and will open up the economy to participation by small and medium enterprises, emerging co-operatives, and township and village enterprises.

The manifesto also outlines an industrial strategy to accelerate the expansion of our manufacturing capacity, increase investment and sustain decent jobs.
President Cyril Ramaphosa 

“The manifesto also outlines an industrial strategy to accelerate the expansion of our manufacturing capacity, increase investment and sustain decent jobs,” he said.

The manifesto is also expected to describe how the ANC plans to raise public and private funds to expand on infrastructure including roads, schools, health facilities, water and sanitation infrastructure and energy generation and distribution capacity.

“Investment is the fuel that propels the growth of any economy. We have an investment plan to ensure our economy grows at a significantly faster rate and creates jobs on a far greater scale,” he said.

The gala dinner on Friday capped a week of intensive campaigning by ANC leaders across KwaZulu-Natal, a province which is set to be hotly contested in the election after the fall of former President Jacob Zuma last year.

While the economy is expected to headline in the manifesto, the launch itself may be hobbled by politics.

Zuma remains popular in the province, with splinter parties rapidly springing up  in his name since his resignation from office in February last year.

This, coupled with the resurgence of the Inkatha Freedom Party since the demise of the National Freedom Party, could spell trouble for the governing ANC.

Complicating matters further for the ANC is Zuma’s tainted legacy of allegations of corruption and state capture, his mismanagement of the economy and his weakening of key state institutions.

The ANC leadership, including Ramaphosa, tiptoed around these issues while campaigning in the province in which Zuma continues to enjoy support.

While there are fears that the former president’s backers would disrupt Ramaphosa’s address on Saturday, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule — himself a staunch Zuma backer — at a media briefing on Friday said members of the ANC are expected to be disciplined.

He said divisive t-shirts would also not be allowed at the rally.  

Zuma is expected to attend the gathering, but former president Thabo Mbeki has tended his apology and will not be present due to “prior engagements”. Former ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe is also expected to attend.

The manifesto launch will kick off at 7am on Saturday, with Ramaphosa’s address expected to begin at 10am.