Address by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at the 17th Nedlac Annual Summit, Birchwood Hotel, Kempton Park
7 Sep 2012
Programme Director, Les Kettledas;
Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant;
Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies;
President of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA);
General-Secretary of COSATU;
General-Secretary of FEDUSA;
General-Secretary of NACTU;
NEDLAC Executive Director;
Leaders from all the NEDLAC constituencies;
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is an honour for me to address the NEDLAC annual summit in 2012.
The year to date has seen important milestones and achievements for the country and also for social dialogue.
With first quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by 2.7 and the second quarter at 3.2 percent, there are grounds for cautious optimism that the economy may be moving into a more stable phase of growth.
However many risks remain present in the international economic environment which may yet have negative consequences for our domestic economic performance.
A lot depends on what happens in Europe, and how that affects the rest of the world. The European slowdown has already begun to affect the local automotive sector and the platinum sector in mining, for which the car industry is a major procurer of platinum. One catalytic converter manufacturer has already laid off workers.
But we are hopeful that the Euro-zone will turn the corner soon and allow the rest of the world to invest with more confidence.
According to our official statistics, in the region of 320 000 jobs have been created in the formal sector between the middle of 2011 and mid-2012. Though we have not yet recovered all the jobs lost in the recession of 2009, we are getting there slowly.
Continued positive growth in employment will be the most important way in which we address poverty and unemployment.
As you know, Government has proposed and initiated a number of projects and strategies to work towards eradicating poverty, unemployment and inequality.
These range from strategies such as the New Growth Path and the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC) which has developed 17 strategic infrastructure projects, ranging, among others, from electricity, railways, roads, dams and social infrastructure. Several of these projects are already being implemented.
Policies have also been put in place for Cooperatives, Spatial Planning and Land Use Management, the bill is being piloted through Parliament, as well as the large scale Infrastructure Development projects.
Further, government has also initiated the plan to establish a National Health Insurance system and reform to social security and retirement saving.
I am pleased that we appear to be reaching some consensus in the area of youth development around a multi-pronged strategy which may include demand side subsidies to incentivise youth employment.
Amending legislation to further protect vulnerable workers, for example, the current amendments to the Labour Relations Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Employment Equity Act, should also contribute to countering growing inequality in the labour market.
Through NEDLAC, the social partners have consistently made important contributions to the fine-tuning of strategies and policies so that we not only confront poverty, unemployment and inequality in the best way, but that we also do so with a common vision and approach.
A key challenge facing us all in the years ahead will be to take seriously and to respond appropriately to the National Development Plan that was handed to the President on the 15 of August this year.
The Plan challenges us to work towards a social compact for growth and employment.
In proposing a social compact, the National Planning Commission takes account of real complexities that exist in South Africa that will make a meaningful social compact difficult.
These include, among others:
- low trust between the parties;
- the difficulty of the state acting as an independent and strong arbiter that would be able to discipline parties;
- problems of representation of the social partners; and
- aA challenge of effective leadership that is able to take risks.
Despite these difficulties, the National Development Plan has concluded that and I quote: “…a social contract would contribute substantially to providing the political, economic and social conditions for long run development.” This echoes a similar point that was made in the National Growth Path strategy document.
I am sure that we would all agree that the assessment of the National Planning Commission is correct in this regard. A common vision, a higher level of trust and a set of agreed trade-offs that contribute positively to the growth and development will be in the interest of all parties.
How do we get there?
The day after the National Development Plan was handed to the President we saw the tragedy unfold at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine near Rustenburg where 44 people were killed, including striking miners and the police.
The events at Lonmin will be fully investigated by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry that has now started its work. Once we have the report of the Commission, we will be able to deliberate fully on the events that took place and decide on an appropriate course of action.
The terms of reference of the Commission are sufficiently broad so as to deal with all aspects of the Marikana tragedy and to make appropriate recommendations.
The tragedy at Marikana should make us all reflect on how we confront poverty and inequality through our respective institutions and organisations. It also challenges us to re-commit ourselves to more effective social dialogue at national and regional levels.
We should strive to find a common vision to take us forward. Now is the time to begin laying the basis for a social contract for our labour relations and our labour market that will contribute to achieving a more equitable and inclusive form of economic growth.
In this regard, I wish to draw your attention to the point about the necessity for social dialogue made in the booklet of Founding Documents of NEDLAC, which states:
“Unlike any other the international examples of social dialogue the South African model of social dialogue was developed to deepen democracy and also look at socio-economic issues. The model we have developed in South Africa is a leader in the world of social dialogue. It is a cornerstone of our democracy, and needs to be jealously guarded in order to promote transformation.”
Accordingly, I trust that the value of social dialogue which in essence constitutes the foundations of our democracy will continue to enjoy our undivided attention and energise our collective efforts at socio-economic transformation of our country.
Of course, as is to be expected, there are still areas of the NEDLAC process that we can improve on.
One of the key challenges in this regard is the representation of the poor and the marginalised – the unemployed (including the unemployed youth), urban and rural poor, and those working in the informal sector.
These constituencies are not easy to organise or to represent in any formal sense.
We must therefore ask ourselves what we can genuinely do to ensure that the Nedlac’s ‘Community Constituency’ is fully represented, their voices are heard and that their interests are adequately addressed.
Other areas of consideration that we must look at going forward include:
- dealing with the declining quality of participation in NEDLAC;
- enhancing the relation with government to avoid the use of NEDLAC as an avenue for solely putting government under pressure in the event of controversial policy and legislative proposals; and
- avoiding the relegation of the process to a talk-shop by sending junior officials, with no decision-making authority, to represent business and government.
Let me conclude by thanking the social partners and government representatives who have given of their time during the past year to support NEDLAC and the process of social dialogue that it provides for.
I should also like to thank the staff of NEDLAC under the leadership of the Executive Director, Mr Alistair Smith, who took over the reins at NEDLAC roughly a year ago. His predecessor Herbert Mkhize deserves honour for excellent service – a special award made of bronze, platinum and gold for his excellent service to Nedlac.
Thank you for your efforts during the year and I wish you well for the year ahead. It will be a challenging year for social partnership, but it could be the year that Nedlac achieves its true potential.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency
7 Sep 2012
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