It seems as a nation, South Africa is at a crossroads, politically and economically. This is according to Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan. He was presenting his Medium Term Budget Policy speech to parliament in Cape Town.
The minister said the country had to look frankly at its self, quoting Amilcar Cabral’s words: “…one type of struggle we regard as fundamental…(is) the struggle against our own weaknesses… Whatever difficulties the enemy may create, the aforementioned is the most difficult struggle for the present and the future of our people…”
Gordhan added that it was not just that the country’s economic outlook was distressed and there was the possibility of downgrades in credit ratings and the rising cost of debt. It was not just the most severe drought in decades, and rising food prices. It was not just the unsettling effect of legal matters and court challenges.
“These are considerable challenges, Honourable Speaker. But we can address them – rationally, deliberately, and through the appropriate procedures. Much more disturbing, and more difficult, is the rise in our own communities of anger and discontent, spilling over into violence and destructive protests.”
The minister said violent protests had signalled unresolved social challenges.
“They present immense challenges to the leadership of our higher education institutions, municipalities and community organisations. Highly stressful demands are made on our police and security personnel. Destruction of property diminishes the inheritance of our children.
“Our social contract is under pressure. It is as if we have put unnecessary hurdles in the way of realising our potential and implementing our development plans.”
The minister added that policy statements sometimes were unclear or conflicted, and that commitments were made without clear resource plans.
Implementation was derailed by institutional instability, investment was held back by uncertainties and erosion of trust, and vested interests and political contestation interfered with decision-making.
“Within Cabinet, and amongst committed leaders in business and civil society, we appreciate the challenges before us and are actively engaged in dialogue to confront the weaknesses that hold back our progress.
“And we owe it to all those involved to revitalise our capacity to negotiate agreements and to find enduring solutions.”