Publication Date: 17/02/2018

We join the widespread applause of the State of the Nation Address by the President of South Africa, Mr Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa.

The address was statesmanlike and set out a vision of a prosperous, inclusive, united South Africa, with an ethical leadership that serves its people. As a sector we take heed that we are building a country “where a person’s prospects are determined by their own initiative and hard work, and not by the colour of their skin, place of birth, gender, language or income of their parents.”

After the long period of corruption that characterised the previous presidency, we are relieved by Mr Ramaphosa’s commitment to “build a society defined by decency and integrity, that does not tolerate the plunder of public resources, nor the theft by corporate criminals of the hard-earned savings of ordinary people”.

We must urgently correct the erosion of the capacity of the state and institutions of governance, so that we can effectively achieve the programme set out by the president. Mr Ramaphosa’s commitment to look at the structure, number and size of national departments and to ensure a capable state is welcome.

South African banks are ready to respond to the call for business to work with other stakeholders towards the recovery of the economy and country. We will play our part in the proposed investment conference and the work groups and commissions on pressing national issues like economic growth, youth employment and the digital industrial revolution. These will help formulate practical policies that can be implemented and help build an economy geared for our current realities.

It is vital that the government follow through on his commitment to stabilise and revitalise state-owned enterprises by appointing capable board members with integrity; removing board members from any role in procurement; and developing alternate funding models for SOE’s in serious financial trouble – Eskom foremost among them. We look forward to seeing quick action on this.

The president also committed to abide by the rulings of the Constitutional Court, especially those regarding the SA Social Services Agency and the distribution of social grants. This commitment to the rule of law is essential for business and the social development of the country.

South African banks have repeatedly said that that they are willing and able to ensure that social grants are legally distributed to their beneficiaries, within the terms of the Constitutional Court hearings. We hope that the way is now clear for a transparent, honest engagement between the banks and the SASSA and Department of Social Development.

His undertaking to ensure a professional public service empathetic to the needs of people is welcomed by all South Africans. Of particular importance is the announcement of a Commission of Inquiry into the South African Revenue Service and support for small businesses.

The speech will go a long way to creating policy certainty and encouraging domestic and foreign investment, necessary for inclusive economic growth and job creation.

BASA will be a willing partner with the president on land reform, economic inclusion and transformation, among other critical areas. We hear his echo of Thuma Mina by Hugh Masekela and want to be among the first to answer the call.