Former South African President Thabo Mbeki said he regrets his government’s failure to create more jobs and reduce poverty.
“The challenge that we faced then and continue to face now is to achieve actual practical results with regard to the eradication of the legacy of colonialism and apartheid,” Mbeki said in an interview on Johannesburg-based PowerFM radio yesterday. “What one regrets is that we didn’t achieve faster progress with regards to all of the objectives we set for ourselves.”
Mbeki, 71, became South Africa’s second black president when he succeeded Nelson Mandela in 1999. During his nine years in office, the economy had its longest period of expansion since the end of World War II. While the unemployment rate has dropped from a record 31 percent in 2003, the ruling African National Congress has failed to lower it below 20 percent since it took power in 1994. It was 23 percent when Mbeki left his position.
“The issue of the reduction of the level unemployment has been part of government policy for a long time,” Mbeki said. “What one regrets about that is that we did not achieve the successes that were obviously necessary.”
The jobless rate was 25.2 percent in the first quarter. The government has pledged to lower that to 14 percent by 2020.
“We needed the economy of South Africa to grow at particular high rates and we never achieved this because we did not have the required, necessary levels of investment,” Mbeki said. “The investors were not investing in the South African economy at the rate and extent which was necessary.”
Mbeki stepped down in 2008 after supporters of current President Jacob Zuma, including the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the ANC Youth League, helped to oust Mbeki as party leader in December 2007. Cosatu, as the labor group is known, and the South African Communist Party criticized Mbeki’s economic policies, which they said didn’t do enough to reduce unemployment.