What's on the Table at South Africa's Ruling Party Policy Forum

  • African National Congress wary of state's nuclear plans
  • Party wants bigger stake in economy for black majority

South Africa’s plans on everything from nuclear power to how to spark growth in an anemic economy fall under the spotlight at a ruling African National Conference policy conference starting Thursday.

The ANC has been in power since South Africa’s first multiracial elections in 1994 and won 62 percent of the vote last year. While the election of the party’s leadership isn’t up for debate -- that will only happen at its next national conference in 2017 -- delegates may agree to allow officials to openly campaign for posts, lobbying the party currently discourages.

Debate at the Oct. 8-11 conference, which takes place in Midrand near Johannesburg mid-way through the party’s five-year electoral term, will focus on 213 pages of discussion documents drafted by ANC officials. Here are the key economic issues on the table:

Bolstering growth

While President Jacob Zuma’s government is targeting 5 percent growth by 2019, Africa’s most-industrialized economy contracted an annualized 1.3 percent in the second quarter, as energy shortages constrained output. The ANC’s proposals to improve the economy’s competitiveness and encourage local manufacturing include containing power-price increases, reducing port and freight subsidies for commodity exporters, improving telecommunications infrastructure, expanding the tourism industry and reducing the volatility of the rand.

Tackling the Energy Deficit

A decade of under-investment in new power plants has led to managed blackouts and has deterred investment. The ANC wants South Africa to consider increasing its use of gas and hydropower, which if necessary should be imported from the region. The party is wary that the state’s plans to build new nuclear plants that will generate 9,600 megawatts of power may be unaffordable, and says any investment must be preceded by “a full, transparent and thorough cost-benefit analysis.”

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The ANC is intent on ensuring the country derives greater benefit from its mineral resources. Its proposals include implementing a resource-rent tax and mineral-export taxes to encourage local processing. It also wants to explore establishing a local metals exchange that would make price-setting more effective and assist in tax collection. The ANC backs the government’s plans to draft stand-alone laws to regulate the oil and gas sector to encourage development of the fledgling industry and ensure the state secures a free stake in all new projects.

Black empowerment

The ANC says South Africa’s white minority still wields disproportionate control over the economy 21 years after the end of apartheid. The party’s proposals include securing state support for black industrialists and entrepreneurs, encouraging businesses to give stakes in the companies to workers and encouraging state entities to buy more from black-owned businesses.

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