Research and Policy Brief: Kgalema Motlanthe - 22nd November 2012.

Nov 22, 2012
Not much is known about the deputy president of the African National Congress (ANC) and the country, Kgalema Motlanthe. On most matters he is guarded and unclear and sometimes contradictory. This article looks at some of the policy stances he has taken in the past.

Kgalema Motlanthe, deputy president of both the African National Congress (ANC) and the country, is regarded by some as the main rival to Jacob Zuma’s future presidency of the party, to be decided in Mangaung (Free State) in December 2012. In 2009 the Institute compiled a profile on Mr Motlanthe (Fast Facts, January 2009), which is updated here.

Mr Motlanthe, who was born in Alexandra township (Johannesburg) in July 1949, started his political life in the 1970s. He was recruited to Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) while working for the Johannesburg City Council. The unit Mr Motlanthe was assigned to was responsible for recruiting people for military training, and later sabotage, and for smuggling cadres in and out of South Africa. Mr Motlanthe was arrested in 1976 and detained for 11 months at John Vorster Square before being found guilty on charges under the Terrorism Act of 1967 and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment on Robben Island.

After leaving Robben Island, Mr Motlanthe had the task of strengthening the trade union movement and worked for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), in charge of education. He was elected secretary general in 1992. Under his leadership a productivity-based deal was negotiated for mineworkers. Also, the Mineworkers Investment Company (MIC) was established, along with the J B Marks Education Trust, which provided bursaries to mineworkers and their dependants.

In 1990 after the ANC was unbanned, Mr Motlanthe was tasked with re-establishing the party in the Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging region (now Gauteng), and was elected as its chairman. In 1997 Mr Motlanthe was elected as ANC secretary general, a position he retained until 2007. At the ANC’s 52nd national conference in Polokwane (Limpopo), he was elected as the ANC’s deputy president. He became a minister in the Presidency in July 2008. Following the resignation of Thabo Mbeki, Mr Motlanthe was sworn in as president of South Africa until the national elections in 2009, when he resumed the position of deputy president under Jacob Zuma’s presidency.


On the economy
‘The global crisis of capitalism and imperialism, which is negatively affecting growth, widening social inequality, increasing levels of poverty and worsening employment figures, needs a sharpened, radical shift in the approach the Socialist International takes’ - addressing the 24th Congress of the Socialist International, 30 August 2012.

‘[It would therefore entail] freezing the upper end and bringing up the lower ends over time and [most probably require] a different type of (political) party to introduce that and sustain it… I am sure if we were to try it out now…we would precipitate a revolution from the middle and upper classes’ – speaking at a Parliamentary Press Gallery Association interactive session, 29 August 2012, of his preference for a flat salary structure like the ‘Cuban option’ where people would earn similar salaries.

‘Contrary to the view that there must be less state involvement in the economy, the lessons from recent economic and financial crises corroborate our enduring position that more state involvement is sought to secure orderly socio-economic development of its citizenry’ – addressing the Ninth International Mining History Congress, 17 April 2012.

‘From a national standpoint, the enviable rents from these national resources should be used to develop the economy as a whole, not to profit a handful of mining companies’ – addressing the Ninth International Mining History Congress, 17 April 2012.

‘My understanding is that it [Walmart] has to procure supplies from smaller suppliers. I mean Pick n Pay has not killed small producers of vegetables and other perishables. Instead it guarantees them a market. The way we look at it is that it makes a very positive vote of confidence in South Africa as an investment outlet’ – contradicting the ministers of economic development, of trade and industry, and of agriculture, who had asked for more stringent conditions to the entry of Walmart into South Africa. This was during an address to academics and business executives at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), 18 November 2011.

‘I don’t think our labour laws are an obstacle to the creation of jobs. I think they contain enough flexibility… I know that this year an accord was signed again at [the National Economic Development and Labour Council] Nedlac which now allows for apprentices to be absorbed without those apprentices being treated as full-time employees, so there is flexibility in our labour regime’ - addressing academics and business executives at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), 18 November 2011.

‘It was a matter of three numbers. One was a half, the second two, the third three. What this meant was that when a transnational company arrived, the workforce was halved, productivity doubled and profit trebled’ – describing globalisation from a worker’s perspective at the Congress of the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa), 6 November 2008.

‘No. The question is whether the policies they want to pursue are feasible, necessary, and valid’ – responding to whether his trade union background would make him more sympathetic to the policy demands of the ruling party’s allies [Independent Online 3 October 2008].

‘He [a former president, Thabo Mbeki] did the sums for us, he used logic to convince us, and it worked. Once I listened to him, my position changed’ – explaining why he had converted from socialist policies to the Government’s Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) macroeconomic strategy’ [Sunday Times 28 September 2008].

On service delivery
‘Shelter is a human right. Nobody must be without shelter (and if they don’t have) they must be provided for. But you can’t have a situation in which half the population just simply says: Here we are, it is your responsibility to furnish those houses…to feed us…and to ensure that our children get their education free…nothing is free, absolutely nothing… It is paid for from revenue collected from those who pay taxes’ – giving an interview to the Sunday Times, 9 January 2011.

‘It is not sustainable for the State to have more than 13 million people dependent on social grants. People want houses, they want this and they want that. For free, for free! Where have you heard of such a thing?’ – giving an interview to the Sunday Times, 9 January 2011.

‘My impression is that Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) are happy with the policies adopted in Polokwane… The policies now in place have to be seen through for this term. We all recognise that a great deal has to be done. The fact that 12 million of our people are recipients of grants is not sustainable; for their own dignity it’s much better if people have decent jobs. When we say the Government has done much, we’re saying it has responded by giving relief, which is an achievement’ [Mail & Guardian 3-9 October 2008].

On the Marikana massacre
‘Mines need to provide housing. This out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach creates conditions for this kind of wildcat action. So in the long run employers lose more than they gain’ [Business Day 31 August 2012].

‘If there is one good thing that must result out of this whole painful saga, it is the elimination of the migrant labour system’ [Weekend Argus, 10 November].

‘Therein lies the perversity of the living-out allowances. Rather than allowances, mining companies should be providing the workers with decent safe transport to go home, to their real homes. This would address most of these challenges of informal poorly serviced settlements, and the consequences of secondary homes could also be addressed’ [Weekend Argus 10 November 2012].

On education
‘Education can be and has been used to befuddle the minds of the common people. But education can also be used as an important instrument in the struggle for freedom and human progress’ [The New Age 16 July 2012].

On race
‘I don’t know how you will be able to prevent or avoid such a development. In society there is always uneven development and opportunities will go to those with an eye for opportunities. The majority of our people are so disempowered that, to them, living means not dying’ – speaking on how black economic empowerment only benefits a few in an interview with the Sunday Times, 9 January 2011.

‘When you affirm someone you are saying here is someone with the full potential who is being retarded by political conditions. Affirmation of a person is affirmation of a person with skills’ [Financial Mail 29 August 2008].

‘Perhaps, in order to forestall this and broaden the base of black empowerment, we should declare that, once an individual has been empowered, he or she should no longer be regarded as a historically disadvantaged person, but should accept the status of an ordinary business partner. Perhaps it is time to move to limit one person to one empowerment, at least where this involves significant state resources’ [Mail & Guardian 3-9 October 2008].

On other matters
‘As the ANC, we have absolutely no need, we have absolutely no use for a youth league that is passive. We need the Youth League to be militant, determined and creative. It is that kind of youth league that we need’ – addressing the Nkowankowa ANC Youth League rally, 24 March 2012.

‘There is therefore a dire need to question age-old doctrines that have occasioned nothing but untold misery for people in the developing South, so that we begin to re-imagine a new world, a new humanity defined by values other than the prevailing ones of acquisitiveness, greed and sheer rapine’ – addressing the China Executive Leadership Academy, 28 September 2011.

‘[The] MDC is not a political party but rather an instrument of “neo-colonial” intervention, “anointed” by western powers to impose Iraq-style “regime change” on Zimbabwe. The ANC would never be party to any such thing…because if it can be done to Zimbabwe it will be done to us tomorrow.’ – describing Zimbabwe’s union-sponsored Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as told to scholar Padraig O’Malley [Business Day 29 July 2011].


- Boitumelo Sethlatswe


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