COSATU and Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) held an unprecedented two-day meeting on the 23rd and 24th June 2017.

The meeting at top leadership level, arose from the conviction that solutions to South Africa’s pressing socio-economic challenges are highly dependent on business and labour leaders communicating, and where possible working together, in the national interest.

The purpose of the meeting was for senior business and labour leaders to understand each other’s different and sometimes contradictory perspectives on the social, economic and governance crises facing South Africa; in pursuit of a programme of action in which both might deploy their substantial collective capabilities to address the current malaise.

Against a backdrop of improving global economic conditions, the dialog reflected a positive spirit of patriotism, with an candid and robust exchange of experiences and ideas on the state of our country, society and economy.

The parties agreed that urgent action is necessary to end rising unemployment, poverty and inequality and that any plan of action must prioritise the 9 million South Africans whose inability to find work traps them in a cycle of abject poverty, which increases the unsustainable high levels of inequality, hopelessness and frustration. Related priorities include further development of ideas around social and basic income grants and the accelerated de- racialisation of our economy.

The dialog was wide-ranging and uninhibited identifying various topics for further debate including:

  • increasing South Africa’s economic competitiveness and ways of attracting investment and jobs, in light of the challenges and opportunities posed by technology and the 4th industrial revolution
  • potential areas of significant job creation, particularly in manufacturing where the correct mix of Special Economic Zones, regulation, incentives, trade fiscal and labour policy coordination, and proper functioning SOE’s could create meaningful employment
  • the significance of the proposed Youth Employment Service (“YES”) programme in providing a quality work experience for a targeted 1m 18 -29 year old interns
  • opportunities for broad based empowerment and the promotion of black industrialists
  • SME development and job creation
  • optimal corporate governance arrangements including worker representation
  • remuneration structures which narrow inequality by enabling competitive executive remuneration and living wages for workers
  • the national minimum wage, and
  • the redress of economic marginalisation and poverty through land and rural reforms

Concrete action is required to reverse the current trajectory of low growth exacerbated by ratings downgrades, low business and consumer confidence, and tentative investment, each of which is a direct consequence of political uncertainty, corruption and “State Capture”.

  • The meeting identified the corrosive direct and indirect effects of corruption and “State Capture” on the everyday lives of ordinary South Africans. The most debilitating being:
  • the hollowing out of state, provincial and municipal capacity to provide public services
  • the failure of the state to ensure law enforcement and effective unbiased criminal
  • the attack on the integrity and functioning of SOE’s
  • the uninformed regulatory assault on various economic sectors in particular the mining sector, and
    uncertainty and the loss of investor and consumer confidence caused by arbitrary actions such as the March Cabinet reshuffle and the poorly reasoned attack on the independence and policies of the Reserve Bank by the Public Protector

This systemic attack on our democracy has eaten into investor and consumer confidence leading to the current slowdown of economic activity. The meeting noted the resilience of the South African economy notwithstanding this assault. South Africa’s institutional, legal, corporate and financial assets stand South Africa in excellent stead, and the meeting is hopeful of the economy’s ability to recover and grow should our democracy be restored.

The meeting agreed that South Africa cannot transform nor realise its full socio-economic potential without the eradication of “StateCapture”. A new period of dynamism in the economy hinges on the success of South Africans effectively defeating “State Capture” in its entirety. The blatant, irrefutable capture of government institutions and political leaders by private, criminal interests has undermined our democracy and sovereignty and destroyed the state’s credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of ordinary people. In so doing, it has rendered the state incapable of fulfilling its developmental transformative role to society.

COSATU and BLSA are committed independently and when required jointly to combat “State Capture”.

To this end, the meeting reiterated the call for:

  • an urgently and properly constituted, independent and sharply focused Commission of Enquiry into State Capture
  • the replacement of the entire Eskom Board and the appointment of a non-conflicted, respected and permanent Chairman and CEO
  • the appointment of competent professionals of integrity to lead the SAPS, Hawks, NPA and SARS in the national interest
  • increased accountability of politically elected leaders, with enhanced checks and balances, including lifestyle audits, and
  • a halt to the nuclear programme

Notwithstanding the dire situation facing South Africa, the meeting acknowledged in conclusion those laudable attributes and institutions that provide a sound platform on which credible political and government leaders can institute a programme of recovery and growth for South Africa.

COSATU and BLSA agreed to continue engagement with a view to clarifying positions and formulating concrete actions to achieve inclusion, economic growth and an end to “State Capture”.

Issued by:
Bheki Ntshalintshli, General Secretary, on behalf of Cosatu Bonang Mohale, CEO designate, on behalf of BLSA