ANC Tempers Hard-Line Rhetoric on Economic Policy

Article excerpt

THE African National Congress is tempering its rhetoric about nationalizing mines and banks in a post-apartheid South Africa.

Signs of a new approach to restructuring the South African economy began to emerge from a landmark conference in Harare, Zimbabwe, two weeks ago, organized to formulate a comprehensive ANC economic policy.

The conference, attended by 60 economic experts and delegates from the ANC and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), initiated a policy designed to ensure an equitable distribution of wealth while maintaining economic growth.

"There was very little hard-line posturing," said Stephen Gelb, an economist from Natal University.

The debate about a post-apartheid economy will be taken further at the first major encounter between the ANC and South African business on May 23. The meeting has been convened by the Consultative Business Movement, a group of liberal executives and industrialists who have been developing a dialogue with anti-apartheid groups in recent years.

There is a consensus within that group that neither pure capitalism nor pure socialism will be able to meet the demands of a post-apartheid South Africa, and that a type of radical social democracy will have to be devised to address huge racial inequalities.

The first indication that the ANC might reconsider its hard line on nationalization came two weeks ago when ANC deputy President Nelson Mandela told a public rally in Umtata, Transkei, that an ANC government would practice nationalization only "if it would strengthen the economy."

After the Harare conference, the ANC and Cosatu focused their public campaign on the need to halt government plans to privatize parastatals (government-run companies) like the Electricity Supply Commission and state-run hospitals. …

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