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Inequality poses "grave threat" to S.Africa - Zuma

posted 29 Jun 2012, 15:45 by Mpelembe   [ updated 29 Jun 2012, 15:45 ]

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma makes no mention of mining nationalisation during a speech at the end of a week-long African National Congress (ANC) policy meeting.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA ( JUNE 29, 2012) (REUTERS) - South Africa's ruling ANC will push for greater state involvement in mining and land ownership to address inequalities inherited from apartheid that pose a "grave threat" to Africa's biggest economy, President Jacob Zuma said on Friday (June 29).

Speaking at the end of a week-long African National Congress (ANC) policy meeting, Zuma said the capitalists who became rich under white-minority rule still held a disproportionate sway over the economy 18 years after its demise.

"The ANC urges all South Africans to appreciate that unless we deal with racial lines and gender inequality, poverty and unemployment, our collective, democratic and constitutional achievements would be put at grave risk," Zuma said.

Mining firms in the world's largest platinum provider had to do more to create jobs and alleviate the poverty that is fuelling almost daily unrest in sprawling black townships, posing long-term risks to South Africa's stability, he added.

However, in his hour-long address, Zuma made no mention of nationalisation as a solution to the sector's social short-comings, suggesting a blanket state takeover of the mines - the economic backbone of the state - has been shelved.

At the start of his speech, Zuma highlighted research pointing to the failures of a decade of black economic empowerment that has left blacks owning less than 7 percent of the Johannesburg stock exchange.

According to Statistics South Africa, 29 percent of blacks are unemployed compared with 5.9 percent of whites, while IHS Global Insight, an economic consultancy, estimates that whites have an average income nearly seven times that of blacks.

"There is therefore growing frustration inside and outside the ANC about the material and economic conditions, particularly of those who were oppressed during apartheid. And therefore this conference is about putting in place measures that will give effect to the idea of altering economic relations and bettering the economic conditions of the majority," said political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi.

Even though the conference was officially about policies, many have read it as a proxy for a leadership battle bubbling away beneath the surface ahead of an ANC "elective conference" at the end of the year.

Zuma is firm favourite to win re-election to the helm of the ANC, making him almost certain to capture a second five-year term as president in national elections due in 2014.