One of the tasks of ANC members as identified in this year’s January 8th Statement is to build a social compact to decisively address unemployment and poverty.  In particular the ANC government is urged to work with all social partners, to accelerate economic recovery and reconstruction and ensure that social services are provided to all citizens.  At the heart of this call is the sense of solidarity in our society highlighted especially by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and more critically, the need for all social partners and all South Africans to join hands in a social compact to revive the economy and improve the quality of life of especially the poor.

In his closing remarks to the January NEC Lekgotla, President Ramaphosa said; “The challenge is to lead all sectors of South Africa towards a new and resilient social compact building an inclusive economy that brings a change in the quality of life for all South Africans. An effective social compact will require give and take by all parties, as all parties need to contribute in the cause of national development. In addition to this, it will be necessary to identify trade-offs that social partners will need to act on…. The compact should set out a collective commitment to implement measures and targets to place our nation on a higher and more inclusive growth path aimed at addressing our common national challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Such a social compact must set out the obligations and commitments of all social partners – government, business, labour and community – in order to decisively address our nation’s lasting challenges.”

To quote from the 2020 ANC document titled: Reconstruction, Growth and Transformation: Building a New, Inclusive Economy, “The COVID-19 moment offers South Africa an opportunity to forge a new social compact amongst all role players. In particular, there is a need to mobilise popular support, and ensure buy-in and collective ownership of the economic reconstruction effort. It will be necessary for leaders in society to articulate the interests of the country and the economy as a whole, rather than sectoral interests. Short-term tactical compromises are required from all stakeholders, in order to achieve longer term strategic goals and objectives. In this regard, business will be required to look beyond profits, workers beyond the next round of wage negotiations, and government must have the capability to reprioritise and restructure where needed.

Business leaders must appreciate that the de-concentration of markets, increased access to finance in particular for Black-owned and SMME businesses, and the reduction of barriers to entry are essential ingredients to increased levels of competition, growth and employment. It must be understood that support to the private sector will come with conditions, such as, job retention, increased worker decision making and worker ownership.

Trade unions need to have the tools to explain to members the benefits of policies that will increase competitiveness, productivity, investment and employment creation.  Public sector leaders need to eradicate corruption and build an effective developmental state.

Community based organisations, including the religious sector, must play a leading role in mobilising society towards effective and inclusive social compacting.

For a social compact to be effective, government must take on responsibilities well beyond those which are asserted by the neo-liberal agenda that seeks ubiquitous commodification and attempts to enforce market relationships on almost all spheres of life, with the result that only the well-off can afford access to quality health, education and other services.

National level compacting is required to lift overall investment and create a new, inclusive economy. Sectoral level compacting is also needed to guide sectoral reforms and unlock investment, jobs and transformation in specific sectors.”

The January NEC Lekgotla felt that social compacting should not be limited to large formal sector entities, but should include participation of communities at local level, small businesses, township businesses and cooperatives. The terms and trade-offs of a social compact should be clearly defined and accepted by all parties.

This consistent message from the ANC on the need to work together towards common goals is reassuring. It comes at a time when our country needs decisive leadership at the top to provide clear direction as the nation looks for answers to the many challenges it faces.  At the center of the social compacting effort is the realization that, acting alone, none of the social partners can respond comprehensively to the challenges we face as a country. We need all hands on deck!




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