Top CEOs call for joint effort to halt SA ‘decline’

THIRTY-three prominent business figures from several leading South African companies have boldly called for unity among businesses to arrest a decline in confidence in South Africa’s future, warning the country could “unravel” if challenges in education, corruption and unemployment were left unresolved.

In an open letter published in City Press and the Sunday Times on the eve of the African National Congress (ANC)’s electoral conference in Mangaung where major policy decisions on South Africa’s economic trajectory will be made, the chairpersons and CEOs offered their assistance to the government, but challenged it to implement its policies and the National Development Plan (NDP).

They said South Africa had “previously been able to find common ground and put ideologies aside in the spirit of national building”.

The signatories called for more productive engagement with the state and civil society, and additional commitment from business to the NDP’s objectives, including that of an economy three times its present size and an unemployment rate of 6%, by 2030.

The signatories included acting Lonmin CEO Simon Scott, Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland, AngloGold Ashanti CEO Mark Cutifani and newly appointed Telkom chairperson Jabu Mabuza.

Others were Old Mutual emerging markets unit CE Ralph Mupita, Nedbank Group CEO Mike Brown, Investec CEO Stephen Koseff, Shell South Africa chairman and Black Management Forum president Bonang Mohale, and Business Leadership South Africa CEO Thero Setiloane.

The letter calls for business to urge the government to leverage and effectively implement existing polices and visions, to rebuild confidence in labour market institutions and to promote appropriate education and skills development. It also commits them to promoting “a zero-tolerance approach to bribery, fraud, corruption and anti-competitive business practices”.

Mupita told BusinessDay the letter was a spontaneous “affirmation” by several like-minded CEOs and chairpersons of leading companies about the role business leaders can play to finding “real solutions to the real challenges the country faces”.

Old Mutual is South Africa’s largest long-life insurer and its comments on industry issues are keenly watched by rivals.

Mupita said there was an urgent need for more social cohesion and collective action to deal with the challenges facing South Africa.

The ANC will resolve numerous economic policy issues at its elective congress next week. Business will be keen to lobby delegates in the hope of achieving some effect on the outcomes of the ANC’s policy decisions. — BusinessDay.

… DBSA to be part of proposed plan
Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA)’s recently appointed CE Patrick Dlamini praised the open letter written by a number of business leaders.

He told MoneyWeb at a media briefing announcing the bank’s new strategy that the “business of business can never be business”. He was referring to the advertisement put out by business CEs and chairpersons over the weekend concerning the current state of South Africa and the need for government and the private sector to work together. Dlamini was positive about this step taken by business saying that it was finally putting its hand up to be counted as part of the transformation of the country.

He also saw it as a courageous sign of leadership saying it is important for business to be cognisant of the context it finds itself in and to acknowledge that it is unsustainable for it to function in an environment that is not conducive.

To achieve this and several other new growth opportunities DBSA plans to double its loan book by 2017 to R91 billion.

Asked how the bank would prevent corruption with such vast amounts of money Dlamini could not provide a concise plan. He placed emphasis on the role that top management and leadership had to play in dealing with corruption. — MoneyWeb.

Zuma responds to open letter from business

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma will soon convene what his office has termed a high-level dialogue where the concerns and views of business leaders published in an open letter at the weekend will be discussed, among other issues.

Zuma’s office issued a statement earlier this week saying it welcomed the open letter and hoped the views raised in it would also be shared when the next meeting of the high-level dialogue on the economy takes place “in the interests of taking South Africa forward”.

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj said Zuma and the government remained open to discussions with business at any given time because “building South Africa is a collective responsibility and all sectors have an important role to play”.

Zuma convened a high-level dialogue on the economy between the government, business, labour and civil society in October, following the disruptive strikes that took place in the third quarter.

Constituents were led by the presidents of Business Unity South Africa, the Black Business Council, labour unions and civil society.-Business Day