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S Africa's ANC holds major policy meeting

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South Africa's president has said the economy is still mostly under the control of whites who held power under apartheid, and the government needs to take more drastic steps to make sure the black majority can benefit from the country's wealth.

Jacob Zuma, speaking on Tuesday at the start of a major police meeting of his ruling African National Congress's (ANC) in Johannesburg, said the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality posed long-term risks for Africa's richest country 18 years after the end of apartheid.

Around 3,500 delegates from the country's nine provinces were expected at the four-day gathering in Johannesburg to discuss what has been termed a "second transition".

It is estimated that white South Africans - about 10 per cent of the population - still own as much as 80 per cent of the land.

"The conference must deliberate on how the state can obtain an equitable share from the mineral resources and how communities can benefit more from this national resource," Zuma told the delegates.

The ANC has drafted a number policy documents which call on mining firms to pay more to the state to help finance welfare spending.

The proposals also advocate relying on state-owned enterprises to be engines of job creation and growth.

Some economists, however, have said it would be dangerous to rely on state-owned firms, since almost all of them have been mired in debt and management problems.

Zuma also said the debate over how the country's mining wealth should be shared should go beyond simply the question of "to nationalise or not to nationalise".

Nationalisation plans

ANC produced a research paper earlier this year saying nationalising mines could bankrupt the state, but it suggested increasing taxes on windfall mining profits.

Zuma said the ANC conference should consider how the state can obtain an "equitable share" of mineral wealth, which could be used more to benefit poor communities.

While he called for a new programme for land reform, saying the current policy had been too slow in returning white-owned farmland to blacks dispossessed by apartheid, Zuma did not spell out an alternative vision.

"Our position is that the current willing buyer-willing seller model must be reviewed," he said.

"It tends to distort the land market through ... inflating the prizes of land earmarked for restitution. It makes land reform expensive and delays land restitution to the poor."

This policy has been criticised from within the ANC, and by its governing allies in organised labour, as only benefiting a small sliver of the population with political ties to the party, which has ruled since apartheid ended in 1994.


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