Ramaphosa sees some wins, but social compact still a work in progress
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday rolled out his nationwide roadshow with civil society in a bid to fast-track the social compact with various stakeholders.
Ramaphosa used the gathering at Johannesburg City Hall to come clean about why the social compact, announced in his 2022 state of the nation address, had not been realised.
He was cricitised by former president Thabo Mbeki for making false promises to the nation. The programme hit a snag after Ramaphosa failed to meet social partners.
“We had wanted to have a comprehensive social compact and we had put together a timeline and we were not able to reach that timeline, but what we have seen over time is that we have been able to reach a number of compacts,” explained Ramaphosa.
He added one that stood out was on gender-based violence.
“We have reached agreements and social compacts on a number of issues including the national minimum wage which was in Nedlac and for the first time we reached a national minimum wage due to social compacting.”
This has also been done in the health sector, he said, adding that the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) had been the main “reservoir” of the compacting process.
Nedlac’s Thulani Tshefuta said a seed had been planted in the ANC leading to a social compact.
“A social compact must be positioned as a platform where after all is said and done about the solutions we are rising to the national challenges. When we get to the social compact, we first agree on the pressing national challenges that you want to address.”
Solutions then become national solutions, he said, adding it was important to position people as part of the solution.
“The social compact process is not complete until you define what is your own role in the success of that. That is what we must challenge society with.”
The Black Business Council’s Gregory Mofokeng told Ramaphosa solutions have been proposed. “What we do need is to move with speed to make sure that they are implemented.”
Mofokeng said black business had recommended a number of changes to legislative environment including the Public Procurement Bill. The council is also concerned about the youth not being economically engaged.
“Our government must take a risk on our youth,” he said, adding that young people could be upskilled to manufacture solar panels and batteries to meet the demand.
Mofokeng said black business also said it has solutions to address the energy crisis because “business is hurting”.
Solly Nduku of the Civil Society Forum told Ramaphosa the bilateral agreements, particularly those signed with the Americans, were problematic.
“Many times, when they come, they dangle a carrot that they come with good intent to enhance and support civil society. The real question is whether civil society is climatised with those bilateral agreements that were signed and do we look at the implications of how those agreements end up destabilitising civil society.”
Mapungukwe Institute for Strategic Reflection Xolelwa Katiya said there is growing deep frustration in society with the lack of basic service provisions including water, health and electricity.
“We do know that when it comes to social compacting, dialogue is critical in ensuring that there is compacting,” she said, adding there needs to be an understanding of society’s expectation and the capacity of the state. She said business needed to take a more activist approach.
Thando Gumede from SA Women in Dialogue said: “Mr President I ask you to exercise the courage to call big business into one room and tell them that they are accountable. I also challenge the ANC to give an opportunity to black women to hold the highest positions in political organisation.”
Ramaphosa conceded that a gap has been formed in terms of the party’s ability to engage at a deep and serious level with civil society.
He apologised that it had taken a while to meet and assured the audience that this engagement would be the first of nationwide meetings.
Ramaphosa said the concerns raised align with the party’s priorities, including renewing the ANC
“Renewal and the unity of the ANC will lead to the renewal of our nation. When the ANC is not united, the South African nation is not united and renewed. Your coming to this meeting contributes to the renewal of the ANC.”
Ramaphosa said the government has embarked on a number of measures to address load-shedding. “The day before yesterday we had an announcement that the availability factor has now increased in a number of power stations and this is largely because of the work that we announced in the energy action plan.”
On the international front, he said SA stands by its position on resolving conflict globally peacefully saying that late statesman Nelson Mandela’s approach should be used.
“He taught us that and that is the word that we are spreading around the world including our continent.”
He said the common thread in the discussion was the need for collaboration and engagement.
On women empowerment, Ramaphosa said there were now more women deputy ministers and that should demonstrate the direction the ANC was going.
“Our empowerment of women is not Mickey Mouse; it is serious and we are going to do it.”
Women would participate meaningfully in the economy, he said.
He welcomed the challenge for the ANC-led government to take a risk to empower women and young people.
“We characterise ourselves as a developmental state and at times we rather be hesitant to be more developmental and we tend to hold back instead of being more forthright. We therefore need to be more forthright and make ourselves a more developmental state and as a developmental state there are risks that we need to take like empowering women and young people. We need to be bolder.”
On voting, Ramaphosa said it was important to pay attention to voter education ahead of the 2024 elections. “We now need to embark on voter education.”
On the basic income grant, he said the government was working on it. “When we introduced the R350 SRD grant and it was initially six million people who came forward and it grew to 11-million and it continued we cannot drop these people because some of them really rely on this and yes, we are becoming a big welfare state but we need to demonstrate that as the ANC government we care for our people.”
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.