KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY
DR MATHEWS PHOSA
AHI, Chamber for Small Business, Indaba
Wednesday, 26 July 2017
Baie dankie vir die voorreg om vandag hier tussen sulke uitgelese lede van die Afrikaanse Handelinstituut met u te kan praat.
As ń oud President van u organisasie is dit ń groep mense wat my na aan die hart lê. Daarby deel ons ń voertaal, Afrikaans, sekerlik een van die tale in die wereld waarin mens jou die beste kan uitdruk. Ek voel regtig welkom hier.
Let me start with that phrase that the Guptas paid for and that Bell Pottinger cynically created: radical economic transformation. Before I go there, just one remark. Those two are ideal bedmates who belong together, just not in South Africa. They can take their deeply divisive racist phrases and money elsewhere. I, for one, would be happy to see them go at the first opportunity.
There is no such thing as radical economic transformation. Many countries and politicians have tried to change the natural dynamics of the economy; all of them have failed.
What we do need is to create non-divisive interventions by government, in partnership with business and labour, that addresses the exclusion of black businessmen and women from the mainstream economy. The policies created under the so-called “BEE” policies was one such instrument and has met with some success; albeit not enough.
I support any initiative that seeks consensus between all the stakeholders in the economy to address the shocking imbalances of our imperfect past. To replace that with an imperfect present, as is currently the case, however, will not work. An apartheid economy cannot be replaced with an imperfect theoretical economy where a growing number of corrupt politicians and illegal immigrants collude to destroy our resource rich economy.
It is for that reason that I am opposed to the revised Mining Charter that was thrown into our laps without the necessary, legally prescribed consultative process. It could, of course, be that that so-called Charter was written in Dubai, and on a fully sponsored visit.
My own view is that we should speak of an economy that I prefer to call the one economy. An economy that follows a vision of growth, entrepreneurship, dramatically intensified economic education at schools and universities, funds available for business expansion for those previously excluded but, most importantly, an economy that belongs to all who live in South Africa.
Attacking banking institutions and individuals who have made massive contributions to our countries’ growth, jobs and tax base will only push us backwards at a time when we need business leaders and entrepreneurs whose vision and actions will pull all of us into the future. We, in the process kill the goose that lays the golden egg.
We should rather encourage and incentivize them to create more jobs, new ventures, and more opportunities for partnerships between white and black. In very simple terms: An enforced system where companies are forced to give away shareholding that they worked very hard for will only result in flight of capital and foreign investment , something we can ill-afford with the projected growth rate of zero comma five percent (0.5%), as announced last week by the Reserve Bank governor.
In this challenging growth environment where debt equals half of our GDP, we need political leadership that looks actively and openly to create opportunities for big companies to grow even bigger, and for small businesses to be given the training and resources to grow without burocratic red tape inhibiting them from doing so.
In a one economy scenario a President and cabinet ministers will stop making populist announcements that are unrealistic and rather work hand in hand with their economic partners, black and white, to unlock the chains which currently block expansion. Such leaders would also throw in jail those politicians and businessmen and women who steal and plunder government tenders and corrupt leaders of state owned enterprises.
The ANC has a chance in December this year to part with a leadership that has forgotten who elected them and that their job is to fight poverty through the mechanism of a vibrant and strong economy. Those who set the table of opportunity have become less and less, instead of more.
We cannot call our policies a success when unemployment grows, the economy shrinks, and foreign investors look elsewhere to place their funds. We cannot have Ministers who wipe off billions of our stock market with ill-timed, ill-considered populist Charter announcements.
So, unfortunately, political leadership and economic growth go hand in hand. I unashamedly call on my party to elect leaders who do not stuff their pockets full of dirty money, but those-and they are still there in our party-who understand that we should be servants of those who look to us for bread on their table and a roof over their heads.
Our current leadership has criminally neglected their duty to uplift the living standards of the poorest of the poor and to liberate those regulations, institutions and instruments that will enhance and promote faster economic growth. Democracy must now do what it does best, and that is to evict those who have outstayed their welcome, and elect new, honest incumbents of our countries’ highest offices.
The shocking state in which our party finds itself in is illustrated by the fact that the party leadership, and the parliamentary caucus, is fighting tooth and nail to ensure that ANC members of parliament do NOT vote their conscience. We are very far down the slippery slope of militarism if that is our best response to a no-confidence proposal.
Muzzling members and stifling free speech is the original political sin and far, far removed from ANC culture. It is a sure way to deepen the divisions in the party and pave the way for future split.
We have, unfortunately, since the wonderful events of 1994, increasingly lost the value of a “good address” in the global investment context.
Although I fear that it will be debated to death before anything happens I support some of the recently announced guidelines by the Minister of Finance. Any shares, however, sold in the state owned companies should be substantial so that shareholders, as is the case with Telkom, could have a real say in their running and combatting corruption.
I would go further than the carefully worded announcement. I would also ensure that the current precedent is changed and that the Chairman of the PIC should not, as is currently the case, be a politician. Business is best left to businessmen and women and politics best left to politicians.
Unfortunately, the short-sighted hate speech campaigns of the Guptas and Bell Pottingers’ of this world also finds its way into business as certain unsavoury elements view commercial racism as a perfect vehicle to get rich without lifting a finger. Such an approach can never work in the long term. We need to take colour out of business, and sacrifice whatever necessary to ensure that every single action we take promotes business partnerships that accelerates growth.
The Question is, “What is to be done?”
I propose we do the following going forward:
• Sweep out our current leadership, together with their Saxonwold puppet masters.
• Elect a new, accountable leadership with no ties to those who wanted to sell South Africa to the highest bidder.
• Strengthen our democracy and, in particular those non-profit organizations that fight for the rights of the vulnerable.
• Speak truth to power, whatever the personal cost.
• De-racialize our economic discourse.
• Strengthen those businesses with a proven globally competitive record
• Unleash small businesses from their regulatory chains.
• Rethink BEE so that it moves from tokenism to real participation and value-add.
• Take away politicians from the control of the day to day running of state owned companies.
• Sell substantial shareholding in state owned entities.
• Rethink and streamline the number of ministries and departments that deal with the economy.
• Place ambassadors in wealthy countries with sound knowledge and experience in business.
• Support those innovative companies that offer supplementary offerings to governments’ bouquet in education, health, energy and construction.
• Invest in the development of business and political leaders that view the constraints of the global economy not as an excuse for their failings, but as an opportunity to create new products, jobs and wealth.
Ek se vir u dankie vir die wonderlike werk wat u doen. Hou moed en laat geen steen onaangeraak in u poging om goeie, bydraende, opbouende Suid-Afrikaners te wees nie. U sal, en ek herhaal, u sal, in die einde seevier.
Geen uitdaging is te groot vir hom of haar wie die selfvertroue en nasietrots het om dit te konfronteer nie.
I thank you.