A digital industrial policy, a revised mandate for the Reserve Bank and a blanket ban on privatisation of State-Owned Enterprises – these are just some of the proposals that the South African Communist Party (SACP) will be putting on the table at its Special Congress.
The Congress will take place from 9 to 12 December in the East Rand. It is aimed at reviewing the implementation of resolutions since the party’s National Congress in July 2017.
The SACP is calling on government to put in place a digital industrial strategy, which will look at the implications on the economy of emerging technologies.
Besides exploring the skills that must be developed to harness opportunities presented, the party says that the impact on workers of innovations in various sectors such as financial services, mining, medicine and the automotive sector must be mitigated.
SACP National Spokesperson Alex Mashilo says South Africa needs to build its productive capacity.
“We want South Africa to be repositioned to be an inventor and innovator – a leading force in research and development, so that it can make use of the digital industrial strategy as a platform of job creation for the millions of unemployed South Africans, rather than acting as a consumer – the buyer of technology and the maker of none.”
The party has lamented what it calls the financialisation of the South African economy, a situation which sees a top heavy financial sector and a disproportionate quantity of speculative finance relative to productive investment.
This, it says, has led to job-losses and the frustrated efforts at industrialisation.
Mashilo says that government must take measures aimed at controlling the 10 trillion assets banks and other financial institutions control and prescribe the minimum assets that they should put into developing skills and infrastructure.
“We are saying to our congress that we want state participation in the banking sector so that the banking revenue that can be generated by the state will be used for national development. Because, so far, the revenue generated by commercial banks is used as dividends for their private shareholders rather than to advance national development.”
The Congress will see the revival of an ongoing battle relating to the South African Reserve Bank’s mandate. The issue has seen pitched battles between and within the African National Congress (ANC), alliance partners and government.
“The South African Reserve Bank Act must be amended in line with our constitution so that it makes explicit employment, growth targeting and also promotes transparency and gives accountability towards the way the bank operates.”
Second Deputy President of the party Solly Mapaila has reiterated the party’s determination to fight for the consolidation and building of public sector assets.
Mapaila says privatisation of State-Owned Enterprises is not an option, citing the current woes within the national carrier.
“We have to find mechanisms including enforcing that all government institutions, State-Owned Enterprises must fly SAA and we must support SAA instead of simply saying, ‘it’s incapable to make profit, let’s privatise it.'”
The SACP is also looking to ensure that there is a change in the way its alliance with the ANC and the Congress of South African Trade Unions works. It wants a ruling party that is far more consultative in formulating policy and implements manifesto resolutions.
In its bid to champion workers’ rights and build a socialist South Africa, political commentator Ralph Mathekga believes that more creativity and less ideology will assist the party.
“Classical liberalism, classical marxism … the society has moved a lot and a great deal that even if you have to base your theories to anchor your positions on those, you have to update the method; you have got to update the language; you have to excite the people you are actually dealing with. I really think that a lot of innovation needs to be done to save the left because I do think you need to save the left. You cannot live in a country with this level of inequality and yet the only thing you hear sunrise to sunset is privatisation whereas privatisation is not a panacea.”
The Congress will open on Monday with General Secretary Blade Nzimande expected to give a report on the politics of the country.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is also expected to attend.