The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) and many other industry bodies and companies have welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SoNA), which was delivered on Thursday evening.
His war on corruption and focus on economic growth, skills development and job creation have been favourably received.
Seifsa CEO Kaizer Nyatsumba commented that the President’s speech was both rich in content and welcoming of the important role that business plays in South Africa. He also commended Ramaphosa for his war on corruption.
“We are encouraged by the President's grasp of the serious challenges facing South Africa and, more importantly, his acknowledgement of the obvious fact that the government alone does not have all the answers to the country's problems.”
Nyatsumba added that Seifsa, as a business organisation that is part of the manufacturing sector, is ready to partner with government to grow the economy.
Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) also weighed in, stating that the SoNA theme of “Following up on our commitments: making your future work better” is closely aligned with Cesa’s 2019 theme of “Reshaping our future together”, which focuses on changing social norms.
Cesa president Neresh Pather especially welcomed the President’s announcement that technical competence in government will be increased and that infrastructure promotion will be driven through the infrastructure fund.
Business Unity South Africa (Busa) appreciated Ramaphosa’s establishment of a commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the discussion of a fit-for-purpose education and skills system to go along with 4IR, while helping to alleviate poverty and inequality.
“Of significance is the release of high-speed spectrum, which will aid efforts to ready South Africa for 4IR, as well as the President’s emphasis on creating a conducive environment in which business, inclusive of small business, can participate in the economy,” Busa said.
Agbiz CEO Dr John Purchase enthused about the President singling out the agriculture sector for special development support.
“The President referred to the Public Private Growth Initiative (PPGI) functioning under the auspices of Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of the Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), [which is good since] South Africa needs to drastically improve the ease of doing business and especially encourage small business development through incubator development and addressing concentration through the signing of the new Competition Amendment Bill,” he added.
The Small Business Institute was pleased at the President’s announcement of the expansion of the incubation programme that provides budding entrepreneurs with physical space, infrastructure and shared services, access to specialized knowledge, market linkages, training with new technologies and access to finance.
On the other hand, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) said it was determined to mobilise thousands [of people] to demonstrate outside Parliament on Budget Day (February 20) and to launch mass marches throughout the country on March 26 and 27, to demand an end to Ramaphosa’s policies and for jobs, living wages and “an end to austerity”.
The federation expressed disappointment at the SoNA, stating that it reflected the President’s conservative, pro-business view of the world and his concern to reassure wealthy investors and credit rating agencies rather than the poor majority of South Africans.
Saftu said Ramaphosa neglected to mention that jobs had decreased at a rate of 350 000 a year between 2008 and 2017, while a million jobs had been lost in 2018.
“He boasted about the 275 000 additional jobs promised by the Presidential Jobs Summit, but not that this is below the National Development Plan’s 550 000 new jobs a year by 2030,” the union stated.
Saftu also critisised the President’s discussion of the social grants system and his having “no apparent recognition of the depth of the crisis in South Africa’s schools,” while also neglecting to mention the ruling party’s previous commitment to radical economic transformation and the second phase of the transition.
AfriForum also expressed disappointment that Rampahosa did not discuss land expropriation without compensation and has “continued to ignore the diplomatic memorandum of the US, the UK, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland by persevering with plans for implementing expropriation without compensation,” said deputy CEO Alana Bailey.
She said although Ramaphosa suggested that entrepreneurship can be promoted and inequality reversed by means of redistribution of property, he needs to take into account existing proof attesting to the fact that protection of private property rights is key to economic development.
North West University Professor Raymond Parsons noted that SoNA confirmed that South Africa’s political economy remains complex.
“Against a backdrop of muted economic growth and the dynamics of the upcoming elections on May 8, there is inevitably still much 'unfinished business' on the national agenda. This ranges from the forthcoming Budget to the outcome of the land reform process, which could be sources of continued policy uncertainty this year.
“It seems likely that the economy, although in recovery mode, will remain basically in a 'holding pattern' for most of 2019, until certain political and economic issues are resolved or trends become clearer.”