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Post Liberation: Is the South African government setting businesses up for failure?

IF we look at the period post-1994 it would be fair to say that the government has not created the necessary conditions needed for businesses to flourish. Businesses flourish in conditions where there is policy certainty, clean government and maximum support for emerging entrepreneurs.

My party – the ANC – has not yet created these conditions – and it is fairly certain that it is one of the factors that will cost it dearly at the next general elections.

Add to the above, the cancer of institutionalised corruption and tardiness to respond to changing economic circumstances, and a worrying picture emerges of a regime insensitive to those who boost its taxes.

One of the ways in which an ever-growing state protects itself is through regulation.

Tragically we are in a state of over-regulation and bureaucratic insensitivity to businesses who need fleet-footed support and incentives.

In addition, we are faced with irregular power supply due to the criminal mismanagement of Eskom, as well as ageing infrastructure.

The issue of constant and sustainable power supply is a perfect case in point.

Whilst we have been dithering about the necessity for alternative sources of energy, such as renewables, our country, and its businesses, have been plunged into darkness.

We have, for instance, an abundance of sun and wind, yet we have only grudgingly allowed entrepreneurs to enter this arena through the vehicle of Independent Power Producers (IPP’s). The proposal to fast-track a “second, competing” Eskom, should, if funded and managed by the state not be afforded any consideration.

The transition from a liberation movement to a majority government has been painful and, to put it mildly, rocky.

We have not made the leap from energetic policy formulators and debators to swift, active, engaged service delivery champions.

The biggest challenge facing us is that of fearless, people-driven leadership that understands that the current optics between the haves (government leaders) and the have-nots (the people) is a recipe for further unrest.

Our salvation, in my view, lies in strong leadership, massive deregulation and increased financial support of entrepreneurs – amongst others in the renewable energy sector.

For some inexplicable reason we seem unable to move beyond populism, racism and tribalism in our public discourse.

With contestation for leadership positions and control of resources heating up, regionalism has also now reared its ugly head.

The time is now for leaders of principle and moral steel to stand up and say enough is enough. Let’s, without empty populistic fanfare, address the needs of those we serve.

Leaders tainted by their actions should step aside – even if only temporarily – and let leader servants show the way.

This principle should not be one that is for

a selected few only, but for all who fall into the definition as per our conference decision.

People cannot eat words nor find shelter in announcements – it is time to deliver, build, restore, heal and reconcile.

The continued failure to do so, and the reaction of the voters, were clearly illustrated in the downward decline of the ANC at local government elections.

The beloved country is crying out for fearless leadership, illustrated by action and the understanding that the engine of growth has always been, and will always be, business.

We have limited opportunity to illustrate that we understand our diminishing mandate to create a better life for all.

Those who do not understand the urgent demands of today and tomorrow should create space for those who love our country and want to make a real difference.

Let me conclude by quoting one of my favourite poems by of one of my mentors, the now late bra Don Mattera, which reads as follows…

Sometimes,

I feel an old anger welling up

Exhorting me to blind The mocking,forgetful eyes of history

Jerk the deep,stagnant heart

Of the Unseeable, Shake the indifferent throne

Of the Unmoveable

Ask why

The gloating bane of avarice

Now abides among the newly-freed

Why the once steel faces Of heroic stalwarts Glows with the fat of greed;

Ask why

Comradeship and trust must die

For power,position and pomp

To so falsify

The noble objects of struggle,too

And substantiate for a golden penny

To comfort privilege of the few,

Against comfort privilege of the few, 

Against the misery of the many…

  • This is an edited version of a keynote speech by Dr Mathews Phosa at the Top Empowerment Conference 2022.