Publication Date: 20/04/2018

Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) has developed a set of ambitious proposals to form part of its 2018 socio-economic engagement agenda with social partners to help the country’s efforts towards economic recovery and inclusive growth and transformation.

This comes in a week when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the appointment of four investment envoys as well as an economic adviser, Trudi Makhaya, to coordinate an investment drive to raise $100 billion over the next five years.

At its offices in Johannesburg, Bonang Mohale, the CEO of BLSA, said: “This announcement continues a set of ambitious but attainable targets that we saw coming out of the 2018 State of the Nation Address, and we welcome it. We believe the R1, 2 trillion target is achievable especially if we support it with badly needed structural reforms and policy certainty.”

Mohale noted that following the breathing space that South Africa has been afforded by rating agencies, investors and South Africans need to move swiftly to build on the positive momentum established in the last three months. “It’s within our hands to ensure that decisive course correction takes place and the positive sentiment we’re seeing endures,” said Mohale.
“In BLSA, all social partners – the new administration, labour and civil society – will find a willing, capable partner in helping to set our country on a new sustainable course towards inclusive growth and transformation.”
To this effect, BLSA is committing to:

  • Working with law enforcement agencies on bringing state capture and corruption cases to court speedily;
  • Protecting anti-corruption whistleblowers;
  • Working with the new SARS leadership to restore tax morality and expediting VAT refunds; and,
  • Assisting in ensuring that social grants reach their intended beneficiaries

“These measures are in keeping with our strategic pillars, especially our commitment to protecting and strengthening state institutions and fighting corruption wherever it manifests itself. Through the past year, we’ve been working with civil society in calling for an independent judicial commission of inquiry into state capture. Now that it’s in place, the patriotic duty of all South Africans is to ensure it succeeds – this means everyone must cooperate with the Commission,” said Mohale.

In that vein, BLSA is concerned at the developments at the State Security Agency that saw its Director General Arthur Fraser moved across to head Correctional Services Department. “We have listened to the strategic considerations that have influenced the changes but we vehemently disagree. A person facing such serious allegations and who was found to have limited managerial skills should not be in charge of a government department at all,” said Mohale.

BLSA also pledges to work collaboratively in addressing the challenges facing the state-owned enterprises (SOEs). In this regard, the organisation’s members will consider:

  • Suggesting suitably qualified and experienced South Africans to serve on boards and management of SOEs;
  • Encouraging financial institutions to restructure loans owed by SOEs; and,
  • Working with the government in optimising and effectively structuring its SOE portfolio and helping it cut waste and improve efficiency, profitability and cash flow.

“As well as responding to the President’s call to lend a helping hand, we’re extending this assistance out of the realisation of the critical role played by our SOEs: when they work well, the rest of the economy works better, “said Mohale.

BLSA also says its members will discuss measures to deal imaginatively with the short to medium-term economic hardships they face. Amongst others, members will consider:

  • Coordinating announcements of new, incremental investments;
  • Handling retrenchments with sensitivity – and where these are unavoidable, encourage affected firms to re-skill workers and minimise layoffs across the economy; and,
  • Collaborating on harnessing Corporate Social Investment programmes and consolidating social labour plans and breaking down silos to maximise impact

In the medium-term, BLSA is pledging to work with members on developing proposals on inclusive growth and transformation, employment, skills development, cities and urbanisation as well as ownership of land.

Mohale said: “On April 10, our Council held a special workshop to formulate their preliminary position on the issue of land reform in light of the current parliamentary process following the passing of the motion to expropriate land without compensation – a resolution of the ANC’s 54th national conference.”

BLSA has taken note of the extensive consultative process outlined by Vincent Smith (chair of the Parliamentary Ad Hoc Constitutional Review Committee on this matter) and urges all South Africans to make their views heard on this important matter. For our part, we will be participating in this process, and we plan to engage both the ANC and the Economic Freedom Fighters which sponsored the motion in Parliament.
“We want to work with all social partners on solutions that address the hardships of the past adequately without damaging the long-term sustainability of South Africa as an investment destination.”
On transformation, he said: “This is a vitally important issue for South Africa and our members. We need to be open and honest about progress or lack thereof on transformation and opening up opportunities for black South Africans in the private sector, and on what has not worked or been pursued effectively in the past, and what needs to be done. We need a commitment that leadership will look beyond the ‘tick box compliance’ and recognise that this is a long overdue business and moral imperative, and each leader should drive this with their full personal commitment.”

In the long-term, BLSA will encourage a robust philosophical debate on the kind economy South African should have.

Mohale said: “Business is an important role player in terms of economic output, procurement spend and employment. It’s part of the solution and a national asset. Still, we recognise that the challenges facing South Africa cannot be resolved by a single social partner, working alone. This is why we are willing to join hands with other social partners – government, labour and civil society – in undertaking the critical structural reforms our economy requires.”

Within this context, BLSA is undertaking to participate actively in the initiatives announced by the President during his state of the nation address. These include: the jobs, investment summits here and abroad, and his economic advisory council.