PARLIAMENT – Calls from opposition MPs to abandon economic empowerment policies were proof that they wanted to protect the interests of a white minority, President Jacob Zuma told Parliament on Thursday.
“This is a confirmation that some of our compatriots are determined to protect and defend the status quo and ensure that the ownership, control and management of the economy remains skewed in favour of a racial minority,” Zuma said in response to the two-day debate on his tumultuous state of the nation address last week.
“The fact that white households earn five times more than black households cannot guarantee a sustainable and prosperous future for all,” he added.
Zuma said the low percentage of black ownership of companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange should worry any South African leader.
“Ownership of companies on the JSE should worry any leader of our country who wants to see a sustainable future.”
On Wednesday, the leader of the Freedom Front Plus, Pieter Groenewald had urged Zuma to abandon broad-based black economic empowerment, saying it had not worked anywhere and would not work in South Africa.
Groenewald said the ANC’s commitment to “radical economic transformation” and policies set to benefit black people, would bankrupt the country.
“If you want economic growth to create jobs, put a moratorium on black economic empowerment and affirmative action, then you will get the growth.”
Groenewald also charged that Zuma blamed the country’s problems on “white people” to detract attention from his own failings.
“Honourable Mr President, what do you have against white people in South Africa? Every time there’s something wrong, you blame the white people of South Africa.”
In a clear response at Groenewald, Zuma said black economic empowerment was a “practical, implementable programme” and the government would use all means at its disposal, including regulations, budget allocations and licencing, to give effect to it.
“This is a serious programme and will be implemented by government using the strategic levers available to the State.”
If the ANC had really hated black people, South Africa’s recent history would have looked starkly different, he continued.
“There is no hatred. Some of us have been taught by our organisation not to be racist, to know that we all belong here, but we all need enough space to live together to be able to feel we are indeed citizens.
“We are not going to stopped by you saying we hate whites. No, its not true. I’ve worked with the whites, the whites that were in the struggle, we worked with them in the trenches. They were my comrades. We lived together.”
– African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: President Zuma presenting the original State of the Nation Address last Thursday.