Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

‘New cabinet can rely on us’ – BLSA

Mavuso says the business world is ready to work with SA's new cabinet.

Since the president’s announcement a week ago, the cabinet has already brought new energy to government. Some ministers were not shy to start talking about what they plan to do and how they plan to do it.

Busisiwe Mavuso, CEO of Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) says she was encouraged by how quickly several of the new ministers embraced their roles, engaging with staff of their departments and with the public.

“There were important public announcements from the new ministers in the departments of trade, industry and competition, as well as home affairs, public works, basic education and others. I’ve seen enthusiasm and an immediate focus on the right issues that are key to making a difference for the country, from visa reform to fixing basic literacy and numeracy.”

She says what she heard so far is good for business confidence, which is one of the key ingredients needed to get the economy growing again.

“When the president announced the cabinet, he emphasised that it is time to serve the people of South Africa and not to play party politics. That is exactly right. Party politics must not be allowed to interfere with a focus on delivery as a coherent and effective cabinet.

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Party politics must not influence how business works with cabinet and government

“This principle must also underpin the way we in organised business work with and expect delivery from the cabinet. We must praise success and engage on challenges, no matter what the party colours of the minister.”

Mavuso says business can do much to support this positive energy. “As I wrote before, the previous administration did good work on many fronts to establish a reform agenda to confront our most pressing economic challenges.

‘We are committed to being proactive partners’

“The progress made in electricity, logistics and crime was helped by effective partnerships with businesses. The private sector has skills and experience that can fix blockages and help ensure delivery. The new cabinet can rely on us to always be available for meaningful dialogue.

“We are committed to being proactive partners, bringing skills and experience to the table to help unlock challenges and ensure we achieve progress. We have many common goals and South Africa’s economic well-being is the most obvious. We are here to help find solutions to any obstacles that stand in the way of achieving those goals.”

She is also looking forward to engaging with the government at the provincial level. “I am pleased that negotiations were also finalised, with coalition governments for the first time in three of our nine provinces.

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Also striving for success in provinces with their cabinets

“In the case of Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal particularly, the two biggest contributors to the national economy accounting for almost 50% between them, business has a clear interest in seeing success. While it is critical that the government of national unity is stable and focused on delivery at the national level, it is no less important at the provincial level.”

Mavuso points out that provinces are responsible for a large part of national spending. “In critical areas like education and health, it is the provinces that lead delivery. Business is eager to see delivery improvements and we will support provincial governments where we can.

“It is critical that coalition partners in the provinces similarly focus on the public interest and delivery, leaving aside party politics. The negotiations are done and it is now time for hard work. I understand that the new administration will need to navigate differing viewpoints and priorities.

“When conflicts arise on the correct course of action, the right way to work through them is by relying on the evidence. Everyone will have beliefs about what works and does not work, but what matters is pragmatism, undertaking research, testing new ideas and embracing the course of action that will best deliver for the country.

“That is how to foster confidence which will in turn lead to investment and expanded economic activity.”

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Beware of uncertainty and unpredictability

Mavuso warns that we must guard against the uncertainty that may emerge if the government, at both national and provincial levels, is seen as uncertain and unpredictable. “That will damage confidence and take us backwards, forcing investors and businesses to pause investment.

“Those risks grow when parties are not committed to a common course of action based on clear policies and reliable time frames for regulatory change. Unity and pragmatism are going to be critical, based on transparency and mutual respect.”

She hopes that mutual respect and pragmatism also characterise the relationship between business and the new administration. “Our new ministers have started on the right foot and I am optimistic about what they can achieve.

“I look forward to engaging with them as they set out their agendas and begin to implement. Ultimately, delivery is what matters, including creating an environment for business to invest and grow employment and the economy.”

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