South Africa doesn’t need leaders, they need leadership, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the Discovery Leadership Summit in Sandton, Ramaphosa stole the show as the only speaker of the day to receive a standing ovation – before and after his speech.
The world is in turmoil, Ramaphosa said, not because of its leaders, but because of a lack of leadership.
“We need men and women in business and government, people who will provide leadership on issues that affect ordinary people,” Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa highlighted local problems such as poverty, inequality, youth unemployment, but said South Africa was also affected by global issues such as climate change, “tough and difficult issues of terrorism and nationalism, chauvinism and intolerance”.
‘The world needs leadership’
The world is in great need of leadership, the president said.
“The most important thing is providing leadership.
“This is not a task for presidents or prime ministers, or former presidents or former prime ministers, but for all those in positions of responsibility who have a chance to contribute to a better world.”
As a country, SA is in great need of leadership from people who have the vision to confront the many challenges, Ramaphosa told delegates.
“History has given us a devastating legacy of poverty and inequality.
“It continues to deny millions of our people the opportunities to participate in the economy.”
Ramaphosa said South Africa had to acknowledge that “we have been set back”. “The effects of corruption and state capture happened on a dramatic scale.”
The president said that SA’s economic growth had not risen above 2% since the global economic crisis of 2008.
He said economic growth could not keep up with the population growth, which had an adverse effect on employment.
“We are faced with an unemployment crisis,” Ramaphosa acknowledged.”
Many millions of South Africans have been brought out of poverty [since democracy] and many brought into the middle class, Ramaphosa said, “but we still face huge challenges”.
‘Economy needs to grow faster’
Ramaphosa said the economy needed to grow faster.
“This calls for leadership – all of us, working in the spaces where we are, to move country forward.
“In the 1990s, many people came forward and provided ideas and leadership.”
At the time, the business community provided leadership and a clear vision of the SA they wanted, Ramaphosa said.
SA needed to return to the levels of growth before the global economic crisis, he said.
“If we are to achieve a South Africa that is free, we need to strive for growth that is inclusive and sustainable.”
This included bringing millions of young people into the workplace.
“We have to create jobs for the unemployed while preparing the workforce for the jobs of tomorrow.”
Ramaphosa said the fourth industrial revolution was fundamentally changing the nature of work.
“We have to play an active role in shaping the new world,” he said.
Consequently, government would be establishing a commission to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution.
This would develop suitable skills for young people, Ramaphosa said.
“The education system needs to be more responsive to the needs of the economy.
‘We need to solve our problems together’
“Our problems can’t be solved by one sector. I am pushing for social compact to work together and in unison.
“The private sector has a huge roll to play to put forward initiatives in skills development.
“Let’s create as many jobs as we can and give hope to young people.”
Ramaphosa said companies needed to work with educational institutions to ensure the suitability of curriculums.
“It is in this area where apartheid had the greatest effect.”
Ramaphosa repeated his earlier comments about the redistribution of assets – including land.
“Land reform seeks to unlock full economic potential of the country and its people.”
This would enable emerging farmers to have land and security, he said.
He again emphasised that land reform would be done “within the framework of our Constitution and in adherence to our laws”.
‘No land grabs’
“We will not allow this to lead to the degradation of our economy or land grabs.”
Government would engage with role players to “do it in the only way Nelson Mandela told us: through discussions that contribute to nation building and cohesion”.
“We subscribe to the notion that South Africa belongs to all who live in it.
“The agreement will be all-inclusive and the benefit will be for all of us, rather than a particular interest group.
“This is the South Africa we want to build.”
There should be justice, Ramaphosa told the capacity crowd.
“I want to reconcile the hunger for land, but also the fears and concerns of those who have land, so that we can find a sustainable solution together.”
Ramaphosa also touched on his massive investment drive, seeking to obtain $100bn in investments in five years.
“Only a massive increase in investment will create the growth we need to address unemployment.
“Clearly the investment strike is over. We are now getting SA back to work!” he said to great applause.
“These investments will create employment and create new capacity in several emerging industries.”
Ramaphosa said government had reprioritised public spending to boost economic growth.
The primary beneficiaries would be poor and marginalised communities.
“None of this will succeed without leadership.”
The president said the country needed courageous, determined and visionary leaders.
“Each social partner will need to play its role.
“We are addressing issues such as corruption – corruption must be dealt with without any fail and without any doubt.”
Ramaphosa pointed out that corruption could also be found in the private sector.
“Leadership is needed – leadership that is visionary and not self-seeking,” he said.
He called on business to be government’s partners in providing leadership.
‘Business is not the enemy’
“It’s not like in the past nine years, where business was looked at like the enemy.
“We are now engendering a new way of working together.”
Ramaphosa said companies shared a common responsibility and that that business practices should advance the interests of all SA’s citizens.
“You can still make a lot of money while being a responsible citizen.
“The task before us is significant, but if it was easy, anybody would do it.
“It is in meeting that call to serve that we provide leadership. Leaders must be prepared to serve. Not advance their own interests. Serve the people of SA. That is what we should do,” Ramaphosa said.