(Budget vote debate in Parliament: Trade, Industry and Competition)
The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition is supposed to be the key driving force behind economic recovery in the wake of state capture, corruption and the destructive impact that the Covid-19 regulations had on the South African economy.
The Department's budget over the strategic five-year period from 2020 to 2025, and for the 2022/23 financial year, is focused on implementing policy, strategies, programmes and incentives aimed at promoting industry development and broadening economic participation.
These plans are, however, doomed to fail as long as the ANC government keeps clinging to ineffective ideologies and policy standpoints, like Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and Affirmative Action (AA).
This Department could be seen as the flagship of the government's racially driven policy with the Black Industrialist Forum, the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Forum, and the Competition Commission at the forefront.
In August 2021, the Competition Commission prohibited a proposed takeover of Burger King in South Africa by an international private equity fund reportedly because there were not enough historically disadvantaged persons among the new owners.
Thus, the Competition Commission has become just another unmanned enforcement agency for BEE.
The way in which BEE manifested in South Africa made the gap between rich and poor much greater than it was in 1994, in fact, it is currently one of the greatest in the world.
Despite the ruling party's mandate to remedy inequality, the number of black business owners actually decreased and BEE only benefited a select few.
BEE has failed. The ANC's policy has created new inequalities, and pressing on with the same failed policy will result in an ANC legacy of poverty and destruction.
The Department is, furthermore, characterised by corruption. For instance, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) found in March 2022 that the Board of the National Lotteries Commission embezzled about R300 million.
The money had been earmarked for drug-rehabilitation centres, old-aged homes and the empowerment of women and the youth.
More than 50 separate cases of corruption and misappropriation are being investigated, and only 12 of the 50 have been finalised thus far.
The Department is also unable to sustainably support the Special Economic Zones in their current form without drastic intervention.
The purpose of developing these Special Economic Zones is to promote inclusive economic transformation and to industrialise the economy.
Some of the factors hampering the sustainability of these zones include: limited human resources, illicit business forums harassing communities, provinces that are not equipped to support these Special Economic Zones, inadequate funding, and provinces' misappropriation of revenue generated through, among other things, leasing properties.
South Africa needs a totally new perspective, and possibly even a new dispensation, when it comes to economic development and growth.
Under the current government, however, that will not happen. South Africa deserves better than the ANC.