As the year comes to a close, millions of South Africans will be reflecting on both the self-inflicted hardship of the passing year and the future.
They will be mulling over the kind of leadership they want and deserve – the leadership that can help steer us towards economic prosperity and sustainable economic development.
In a few days, the ANC will hold its 54th national conference – a watershed moment for the party and our future.
The downgrade by S&P and Moody’s placing our economy on downgrade review, was a painful reminder for our leaders.
The risks are plenty: once a country gets downgraded, it triggers a sequence before it can control its finances again. We are facing a fiscal horror show and if we let the status quo remain, things will not end well. Next week is so important.
We desperately need a course correction, and the ANC conference will be an important opportunity for that. BLSA (Business Leadership South Africa) doesn’t have a preference of a leader or political party. However, as all South Africans, we do have an interest in the political life of our country.
As ANC delegates finalise their internal processes, we want them to know our expectations. As business, we want the minimum requirement for any leader and any political party that is seeking the highest office in the land, that is, a strict adherence to the constitution.
The leaders must respect and strengthen all chapter nine institutions including the National Treasury and South African Reserve Bank; respect the independence of the judiciary and implement much needed reforms to state owned enterprises, which has been a drain towards the country’s fiscal outlook.
This will need to accompanied by addressing the leadership, at management and board level, and stabilizing the balance sheets of these institutions.
South Africans need a leader who is capable of putting the interests of the country first, not individualistic agendas.
It is not beyond us to start solving the problems our economy is currently facing. The ANC led governments in the past have had significant success post-1994 in solving our social problems. Two examples from the South African Institute of Race Relations:
- In 1996, there were 5.8 million households living in a formal house and by 2016 that number increased to 13.4 million;
- The portion of black families in a formal house increased from 53% in 1996 to 74% in 2015.
The ANC showed that policies, and leadership, that focused on the poorest and most needy in society and on inclusive growth, worked and provided important socio-economic development milestones.
We need to return to that focus. I believe that there is broad acceptance that much of the analysis and prescriptions contained in the National Development Plan (NDP) – adopted as government policy over five years ago remain valid. What we have lacked is effective execution. If our leaders adopt this, then we would be on a positive trajectory.
In addition, there should be a focus on educating more people for gainful employment.
A key element of success will be a leader who has the courage to rejuvenate co-operation between government, labour and business, which has long suffered a deficit of trust.
Business is willing to cooperate with any leader who puts South Africa first. We expect the new leaders, whoever they are, to prioritse the eradication of state capture throughout our institutions and put in place policies that can jump start our economy, create jobs and promote sustainable, inclusive economic growth and transformation.
This can be the basis that allows us to focus on the authentic promotion of and prioritisation of inclusive economic growth and sustainable economic development… with the goal of benefitting all. Not just the few. This is the leadership South Africans deserve.
Published in The Star (13 December 2017)