Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

GNU offers SA an opportunity to address challenges – BLSA

Forming a GNU and swearing in the president was just the beginning of a long road to recovery from SA’s challenges.

The Government of National Unity (GNU) is a historic opportunity to address SA’s challenges, says CEO of Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) Busisiwe Mavuso.

In her latest newsletter, Mavuso noted South Africa’s historical challenges, the role of leaders and the possible impact of the recently formed GNU.

““A positive momentum has been created through the mature way the GNU has come about. It has sparked confidence among business and investors that the country has a historic opportunity to make a big leap forward to address the challenges we face. As the work ahead begins, we hope parliament will play a central role,” says Mavuso.

Mavuso Parliament should be an enabler of success as well as a check on power. she said parliament is a critical enabler of an effective government and must ensure it works to support government to deliver.

“This is important where legislation is needed to enable reform. The important reforms of the electricity sector, for example, had to be enabled by legislation. There are many other examples where parliament will have to play its part in enabling the structural reforms that the economy clearly needs.

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“While parliament must ensure accountability and be effective in the law-making process, it must be careful not to frustrate reform through unnecessary delays. However, government must be ready to fully engage with lawmakers as part of the process of reform.”

She emphasises that policymakers will need to convince members of parliament (MPs) of the merits of proposals, but MPs must also engage and support positive reform. Holding government accountable and properly considering laws should enable the reforms the country so desperately needs, not frustrate them, she says.

MPs must ensure government by the people

Mavuso congratulated the members of parliament who were sworn in last week, saying it was a confidence building moment for the country watching the culmination of what has been a difficult few weeks for political parties to find each other.

She also congratulated President Cyril Ramaphosa on his re-election and called it a strong signifier of continuity and ongoing progress in the reforms South Africa urgently needs to turn around the performance of the economy.

“The new MPs took on an immense responsibility to represent the people of this country and solve SA’s challenges. They must hold government to account and in the words of the Constitution, “ensure government by the people”.

“Parliament has sometimes been criticised for being ineffectual, merely rubber stamping laws on instruction from party bosses, but in this new era of coalition politics there is an opportunity for parliament to reestablish its authority as the key accountability mechanism for government,” she says.

Mavuso pointed out that the portfolio committees that oversee government business and other senior officials. She says they can bring a new era of rigour in assessing the work of government.

“The standing committees can ensure that important government functions are being performed and public resources are being well used. Parliamentary debates can help drive the creation of better laws. Our new MPs, many sitting in that role for the first time, should think through their approach to engaging with the public and ensuring their interests filter through into the law-making process,” she says.

A need to consider public comment

She called on the MPs to never let South Africa see a repeat of the process that let the National Health Insurance Bill, a completely unworkable piece of legislation that was forced through by the previous parliament without consideration for the abundant evidence of weaknesses and recommendations on how it could be improved, be signed into law..

“We recently saw a disturbing trend of public comments ignored in the process of drawing up legislation. The primary job of an MP is to be a lawmaker and in performing this job it is important to understand how different people are affected by laws and to engage with the evidence that many bring forward through the public consultation processes.”

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She says MPs could also work to ensure that the socioeconomic impact assessments, which in theory every draft law should encounter, happen and that they are meaningful.

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Mavuso says organised business will be a willing partner to government in supporting it to deliver a conducive environment for the economy to grow. “We will also contribute to parliament by providing our input in consultation processes and directly into parliamentary committees when asked.

She also welcomed the continuity in the re-election of Ramaphosa as president. She calls it an outcome which indicates that the country’s reform agenda will advance and its important democratic institutions will be safeguarded.

A need to turn SA around

“We urgently need to turn around South Africa’s economic performance to move our country toward greater prosperity and meet the needs of a growing population. The government must assure all its citizens, as well as local and international investors that South Africa is open for business, underpinned by a robust constitutional democracy, well-managed and capable institutions and the rule of law.

“The primary task now is for all spheres of government to accelerate the momentum. Government is building on a solid foundation – the sixth administration made good progress in stabilising institutions and driving the reforms necessary to get our economy out of the low-growth, low-employment trap South Africa has been stuck in for over a decade.

“Through robust engagement with business and other stakeholders, the president managed to mobilise private sector resources and skills to support interventions.”

However, Mavuso says, progress towards a better future and solving SA’s challenges, where economic growth is sufficient to address South Africa’s unemployment crisis, requires a stable and united government.

“We call on all parties in the government of national unity to reach agreements for the good of the country’s growth trajectory and which can hold for the full term of the seventh administration. In doing so, they will deliver much needed and welcome confidence and stability.”

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