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BLSA lashes Zuma

May 07 2017 06:10
Lesetja Malope

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma came under fire on a number of fronts from Jabu Mabuza, the chairperson of Business Leadership SA (BLSA), at a meeting held at his official Pretoria residence on April 28.

Mabuza said the leadership organisation was particularly unhappy with the recent Cabinet reshuffle, which had come “at a high economic cost”.

He pointed out that, although no one could predict the aftermath of such an action, the credit rating downgrades suffered by the country, as well as decreased investor confidence, occurred primarily as a result of the reshuffle.

A document, seen by City Press, purported to be the transcript of Mabuza’s speech at that meeting, quotes him as saying:

“Unless we take swift action, South Africa’s growth rate will be cut in half this year, and we will probably have a recession next year instead of the recovery that was on the cards.

“In other words, while the Cabinet reshuffle may have been politically necessary, its economic cost will be more unemployment and more poverty for black South Africans for more years.”

Mabuza went on to say that after meeting Zuma a number of times last year as part of the CEO Initiative, which comprises about 100 of South Africa’s chief executives, there was confidence that a downgrade had been averted – before Zuma went ahead and upset the applecart with the reshuffle, reversing the progress made.

“We had identified and started some good projects. And we were seeing the economy starting to pick up. Now the downgrade has happened and the economy will start slowing again.

"All the members of the CEO Initiative are disappointed.

“Many are angry at what they see as a decision that delivers political and economic benefits to a select few at the expense of the rest of South Africa – and, most of all, at the expense of the poor.”

Mabuza also told Zuma that power utility Eskom had a weak board, which should be dissolved.

“We call on you, Mr President, to replace the entire current Eskom board and appoint a credible and strong chairperson to lead the board, and to appoint a new CEO for Eskom.

"The president should publicly set a deadline of 60 days to appoint the board,” Mabuza said.

According to a source close to the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Zuma is said to have declined to commit to any demands, but merely “candidly” acknowledged the inputs.

However, the president apparently indicated that he would not dissolve the Eskom board.

Mabuza said although the organisation was thus far impressed with new Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, the same could not be said of his economic adviser, Professor Chris Malikane.

“Professor Malikane’s ideas are very old-fashioned and extremely dangerous, so he will make the minister’s job far more difficult if he stays on,” Mabuza said.

He recently expressed similar sentiments about Malikane in an open letter, published in the Sunday Times newspaper.

In the speech that Mabuza made at the meeting with Zuma, he also told the president that BLSA was opposed to state capture.

“There are many credible reports of state capture in the public domain and, unfortunately, these include a lot of allegations that the most prominent state captors are the Gupta family.

"The president’s family has personal and business relationships with them.”

Mabuza emphasised that all BLSA members supported the programme of radical economic transformation, which his organisation termed “inclusive growth”, and were not against the governing ANC party nor in favour of regime change.

When approached by City Press, the BLSA declined to confirm or deny the content of the speech, saying the meeting was private.

It released the following statement: “BLSA believes the essence of the private meeting was captured in the presidency statement, released on Saturday [April 29], and commenting would be violating the confidentiality of the meeting.”

Numerous attempts to solicit comment from presidential spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga also proved fruitless.

eskom  |  malusi gigaba  |  zuma  |  jacob  |  jabu mabuza  |  cabinet reshuffle
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