Johannesburg - Business leaders attending the ANC’s policy
conference this week appealed for certainty and warned that lack of clarity
could lead to a plunge in business confidence and lack of investment in the
As the pool of R1.2 trillion private-sector deposits rises
and the ANC policy conference defers concrete policy details to its Mangaung
conference in December, South African business is calling for certainty.
This happened against the backdrop of much horse-trading on
the tone, nature and naming of the ruling party’s much touted “second
By the end of the conference on Friday, consensus was
apparently arrived at and symbolised by the renaming of the contentious
document, which will now be called The Second Phase of the Transition document.
On the fringes of the often heated debate, business leaders
warned that corporate deposits are large and stand at almost R1.2 trillion -
with households contributing R568bn, corporations R154bn, and insurers and
pensions yielding R152bn to these retained earnings.
Business leaders said that for these amounts of money to
find their way into the economy, there needed to be clear policies, programmes
and projects in which to invest.
Corporate leaders stressed the need for urgency, as
investment funds could find themselves avenues for growth elsewhere on the
African continent otherwise.
These views echoed concerns expressed earlier this year by
all three of the ratings agencies involved in the international credit rating
of South Africa - Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s.
These have all revised South Africa’s credit rating
downwards, citing low growth, unemployment and policy uncertainty.
Black Business Council leader Sandile Zungu said that his
constituency welcomed the general recognition that the state needs to play a
part in the economy.
He said that the private sector should increase its
investment levels and assist the state to meet its socio-economic goals.
“The cautious approach of the private sector is
understandable. Government needs to provide clarity and announce an
implementation plan. It must announce a slew of projects that offer reasonable
returns to private-sector investors,” said Zungu.
“These must not be wishy-washy plans but well thought
through projects that have been subjected to rigorous research and planning,”
Bheki Sibiya, the chief executive of the South African
Chamber of Mines, told City Press the chamber would soon be sitting down with
the ANC to gain a deeper understanding of the exact implications of the
resolutions of the policy conference.
He said: “We will be going into bilateral discussions about
the resolutions so we can digest the meaning of these for businesses.”
According to Sibiya, business represented by the chamber
understood the need for change.
“There is a need for change and transformation in the
economy but this must not be at the expense of jobs or growth,”he said.
Leaders of South African banks, telecoms companies and
mining companies were highly visible at the conference in Midrand, Gauteng,
They indicated that the private sector would only partner
government in its planned R845bn infrastructure spending when government
provides clarity on its approach to South Africa’s key economic challenges.
This week, business representatives complained that the ANC
discussion document on economic transformation was not yet concrete, but a
discussion of the economic growth options the country faces.
They said clarity was sorely needed and pointed to examples
of regulatory clarity provided by Malaysia, Singapore and Botswana in their
economic transformation programmes.
An often-cited example is that of Malaysia, which
specifically targets a gross national income of $523bn (R4.2 trillion) by 2020
– and has planned for a per capita income rise from $6 700 in 2010 to at least
$15 000 in the same time period.
This is concretely explained in their economic transformation
plan, which specifically explains what the private sector must achieve.
Malaysia has announced 19 key projects earmarked for private-sector investment.
This week, debate at the ANC conference pivoted around the
discussion document titled The Second Transition – Building a National
Democratic Society and the Balance of Forces in 2012.
This document was prepared by the ANC policy unit and
endorsed by the party’s national executive committee.
The document was submitted as a discussion document at the
national policy conference this week.
It was drafted by leading ANC figures, Gauteng provincial
secretary David Makhura, Northern Cape secretary Zamani Saul and ANC head of
political education Tony Yengeni, under the supervision of Jeff Radebe, the
ANC’s head of policy.
This committee then distributed the document to ANC branches
nationwide for discussion and debate.
The document contains suggestions about boosting job
creation through infrastructure development and the improvement of South
Africa’s manufacturing base.
It envisages increasing investment levels throughout the
economy by inducing more private-sector participation in joint public-private
The document asserts that through localising the
manufacturing of products in the mining industry, South Africa will increase
productivity, boost GDP and reduce unemployment.
But business people assert that the proposals are vague and
have expressed concern that the discussions on the direction of the economy
were being linked to President Jacob Zuma’s bid for a second term in office.
At a press conference on Thursday, Radebe said the document
had been considered on its own merits and that it was not related to Zuma’s