Debate on the Budget Vote of the Presidency

Input by Prince MG Buthelezi MP
President of the Inkatha Freedom Party
 

   

National Assembly: 12th May 2010

 

There are many facets to the Presidency. Today I wish to focus on its powers and functions in the international arena.

 

Last week the President and I were together at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Dar es Salaam. As many commentators have already observed, nothing of substance came out of that meeting, which reiterated the importance of Africa pursuing an agenda on which there has been consensus for a decade, but still no concrete implementation plan.

 

The President's predecessor carved a role for himself in history by being one of the many promoters of Nepad and the African Union. I urge our President to keep up the momentum and maintain the leadership role that both Africa and the world have come to expect South Africa to play. We need to take immediate actions to give substance to the often declared commitments and agenda items for Africa voiced in international forums.

 

At the opening of the King Shaka International Airport in Durban, the President stated: "We must change the way the Government works, and we must change the way the country works." I have expressed these sentiments myself for the past twenty years. As I endorse these sentiments, I wish to add that we must also change the way Africa works to make this country work better, just as we must change the way this country works to make Africa work better.

 

As I have called for the time of empty declarations to end, I wish to make some concrete suggestions which highlight the relevance of the international dimension to the issues with which this Parliament is now seized.

 

I urge the President to promote the immediate establishment of free circulation of goods and capital within Sub-Saharan Africa, and the related abolition of all internal duties, customs and checkpoints, the same way the many diverse countries of Europe did, and as the World Economic Forum has often suggested. This initiative will open a completely different dimension for the debates we are having on our Industrial Policy Action Plan, which suffers under the difficulty of promoting industrial bases for a country like ours with less than ten million consumers for a broad range of goods.

 

The predictable and imminent creation of a continental marketplace will enable each country to specialize in the manufacturing of one or more products, thereby promoting continental trade as the basis for greater South-South transcontinental trade.

 

To a great extent, IPAP is now predicated on the notion of protecting our industry by means of tariffs and subsidies. I am rather proposing that tariffs and subsidies be used within the parameters of a continental custom union to protect the continental internal market from unbearable external competition during its infancy. Is this too large a leap, too fast and too early? No, it is the bare minimum, way too late and way too slow.

 

I urge the President to champion the redress of Africa's lack of adequate and integrated infrastructure. It is a terrible indictment having to read in books like the one recently published by our Professor RW Johnson, that throughout Africa - including in our own country - infrastructure levels and adequacy has declined since liberation was achieved.

 

It is a demeaning but nonetheless inspiring fact that when European countries came together to partition African amongst themselves in the Treaty of Berlin of 1885, they also set up a process of coordinated infrastructure development inclusive of harbours, highways, railways, factories, airports and electricity plants. Amidst hiccups and difficulties, this process lasted until the outbreak of World War II.

 

I urge the President to launch an initiative in terms of which African countries can now come together as equal and free nations to resume the coordinated and integrated development of infrastructure within the continent. In order for this not to become another talk shop in which the problems are reiterated without the power to forge and impose solutions to them, it is necessary that real powers be vested in such an institution, along the lines of a European Commission.

 

This institution should receive funding and plan the development of Africa not only in respect of building the required 19th and 20th century hard infrastructure, but also in respect of the soft infrastructure of the 21st century, ranging from the reticulation of broadband Internet to satellite communications.

 

In spite of being the powerhouse of Africa, our country is today well behind even former socialist states such as Tanzania and Mozambique as an attractive destination for investment. The President rejects the idea that the mining industry will be nationalized, but confuses many people both here and abroad when he pronounces in the same breath that the debate on the nationalisation of the mining industry within the ruling Party should be accepted as an on-going debate.

 

I shrink when Your Excellency suggests that something such as nationalization can still be a subject for debate, when it has ruined so many countries. As a patriot, I resent my President saying anything that can be misinterpreted as him speaking from both sides of his mouth. It is however not my resentment that is important, but that this kind of talk frightens away would-be investors.

 

I also urge the President to call for the creation of an institution which can represent a united African position in WTO negotiations to achieve a common front on agricultural issues. We must exercise maximum moral and political pressure on the developed world to stop their subsidies to their farmers so that Africa may finally become what it is supposed to be; the bread basket of the world. This would address the unemployment situation in our country as well as in other African countries. Of all the debates that took place at the World Economic Forum on Africa, to me the one on agriculture was the most relevant for us in Africa.

 

The final aspect of this internationalist agenda which I urge our President to consider is that of unleashing the developmental and constructive capacity of our South African companies within the rest of the continent. As Americans and Europeans have done with their own companies, we should provide financial assistance for infrastructural development to other African countries on condition that their work be conducted by South African companies, which will build for us a stronger and larger industrial base, effectively transferring subsidies to our industries while giving concrete assistance to the development of the rest of Africa in terms of schools, hospitals and even broadband Internet.

 

It is essential that, as part of this initiative, we call for the adoption of uniform legislation, making it a crime within our own country if one of our companies engages in corruption in a foreign country. Both Europe and the United States have such legislation.

 

This agenda would address a huge amount of problems at home and abroad and would show that under the present incumbent our Presidency has maintained, if not increased, its international leadership within Africa and the world.

 

I know that the issue is not whether this agenda will be realised, but when.

My challenge to the President is for him to be the one who makes it happen, and for it to happen within my lifetime.

 

Contact:
Liezl van der Merwe
082 729 2510