South Africa's ANC Must Focus on Economic Policy, Bonakele Says

  • Governance problems in department driving out those with skill
  • `Mediocre economic performance is largely of our own making'

South Africa’s ruling party needs more focus on economic policy, and governance problems in departments are driving out people with technical skills needed for implementation, said Thembinkosi Bonakele, the nation’s antitrust commissioner.

“The African National Congress is paying very little attention to economic policy and implementation, despite the rhetoric to the contrary,” he said in an opinion piece published in Johannesburg-based Business Day newspaper Monday. “Policy documents alone are not sufficient to describe government policy -- policy and action are needed.”

South African Airways, oil and gas company PetroSA Ltd. and the South African Post Office collectively lost more than 20 billion rand ($1.5 billion) in the past two financial years, while Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. has struggled to meet demand for power, which resulted in rolling blackouts almost every second day in the first half of the year.

“The sorry state of our parastatals is not just a governance problem, which I accept has reached crisis proportions, but its effect in driving technocrats away from these important levers of a developmental state,” he wrote. “Technocrats are leaving the South African Broadcasting Corporation, the Post Office and South African Airways in droves, and by the time we resolve the governance problems, there might be too few to rebuild these parastatals. So the incompetent people running parastatals are not just annoying because they are clueless, but because we might never be able to rebuild the parastatals they are destroying.”

The ANC concluded a three-day conference on Sunday, where it acknowledged the need to improve policy implementation and the management of state-owned companies. A new agency should be set up to screen all senior appointments, President Jacob Zuma said in his closing address.

Investment by businesses has stagnated as confidence languishes near its lowest in almost four years and Zuma’s administration struggles to reignite an economy expanding at the slowest pace since the 2009 recession.

“The negative global economic outlook notwithstanding, our mediocre economic performance is largely of our own making, by commission or omission. We need mandarins to lead us out of this situation,” Bonakele wrote.

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