For a relatively new democratic state, South Africa has achieved a lot since the twenty-five years of transition from apartheid to democracy. However, much work still lies ahead to realise the ideal of a better life for all citizens, because the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality persist.
These were the views of President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday 23rd July 2019 when he opened a two-day conference reflecting on 25 years of Democracy at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). The conference, which is in partnership between UJ, Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) and the Presidency, ends on Wednesday, 24 July 2019.
The event saw leaders from academia, government and industry gather to reflect on progress made towards achieving South Africa’s vision of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, prosperous and free society.
“This conference forms a part of a broader social dialogue that should enrich our understanding of the last 25 years, and that contributes to a common vision and programme for the next 25 years,” said President Ramaphosa.
“In reflecting on these issues, it would be important to give considerations to the priorities, tasks and recommendations contained in the National Development Plan (NDP). Based on an extensive diagnostic report, which provided a frank assessment of the state of the nation, the NDP sets out a vision to 2030”.
President Ramaphosa emphasised that nation-building has economic, political, cultural and social dimensions that are inter-related and dynamic. Concerns have been raised about the lack of, or slow implementation of the NDP, with some South Africans saying that the government was good in policy making than actual implementation. It’s a reality that Ramaphosa seems aware of.
“We have to reflect as government, particularly on whether our implementation model in its current iteration has effectively met our development goals. The Economic Stimulus and Recovery Plan introduced last year, our investment drive, the measures agreed by the jobs summit and an ambitious plan to increase youth employment are all essential components of a comprehensive programme for economic recovery.”
President Ramaphosa added that the National Skills Development Plan calls on all social partners to work together to invest in skills development, particularly at a time when technology is transforming the workplace. “Our efforts to reduce poverty and grow the economy also require that we improve provision of infrastructure, resources and services to all South Africans.”
High-level guests included: Professor Tshilidzi Marwala (Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UJ, Dr Sithembile Mbete (Lecturer in the Department of Political Sciences at the University of Pretoria); Niel Coleman (Co-Director Institute of Economic Justice) and Prof Milo Soko (Professor in International Business & Strategy) as well as Joel Netshitenzhe (Executive Director, MISTRA).
Following a high-level panelist discussion, Prof Marwala unpacked the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and said people need to start reflecting on their competitive advantage as a country. He said people need clinical training platforms, as they will require skills for future jobs. He appealed for more accountability in government.
“We have lost our ability to make our civil servants accountable. If we don’t fix that, we won’t be successful as a country,” Prof Marwala said, also calling for a skills revolution.
In conclusion, President Ramaphosa emphasised the need for a skills revolution to support the society through this 4IR transition and make everyone ready for the rapid technological changes. He encouraged active citizenry, saying he was looking forward to the next 25 years of South Africa’s democracy.