Q&A: BLSA’s Bonang Mohale shares expectations for the ANC leadership race

14/12/2018 | By Admin

As delegates get ready for the ANC’s 54th national conference, business also plans to have a bigger influence on shaping the future of South Africa alongside government.

Having spoken to both Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) and the Black Business Council (BBC), both organisations have indicated to Fin24 that even though they are not political organisations, their hopes are that the outcomes of the conference will be positive to drive South Africa forward.

Given concerns that the conference would not take place, in November BLSA had extended an invitation to engage with the six candidates; Jeff Radebe, Lindiwe Sisulu, Zweli Mkhize, Mathews Phosa, Baleka Mbete and front runners Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa.

The BLSA highlighted the importance of holding the conference in order to deal with issues such as inclusive economic growth, job creation and the development of an urgent economic recovery plan, among other things.

Increasingly this year, business has become more outspoken about fighting corruption, not just in government but within its own ranks, given the likes of KPMG and now Steinhoff. Earlier this year the BLSA signed a six-point contract with South Africa to root out corruption and State Capture.

BLSA CEO Bonang Mohale further shared with Fin24 expectations for the ANC elective conference set to kick off this weekend. Although the organisation is not backing any particular candidate, Mohale noted that the conference comes at a critical point for South Africa and that this could be an opportunity for course correction.

What are business’s expectations for the outcome of the ANC elective conference?

Business has recognised and many of our BLSA members have said time and time again that we are at a very important and critical flashpoint in South Africa. The country’s trajectory is going down a very disconcerting path, and we are in a lot of economic trouble.

This was confirmed by the credit downgrade by S&P and Moody’s putting us on downgrade review, but we really didn’t need the ratings agencies to tell us how dire our economic troubles are.

South Africa needs a course correction and the first opportunity will be at the ANC elective conference. The leadership race that culminates at this month’s conference is of paramount importance to all South Africans, including business.

BLSA is an explicitly non-political organisation and we do not favour particular parties or individuals within them. What I can say, however, is that we have a very strong interest, like many South Africans, in the conduct and outcome of this ANC conference.

This is why BLSA took the extraordinary step in outlining our expectations from the ANC and its leadership candidates:

  • To ensure that the conference is held, and held peacefully abiding by the rule of law. We, as South Africans, cannot accept any type of sabotage of the conference.
  • To remain vigilant against any interference or attempts to derail the smooth running of the conference.
  • To prioritise inclusive economic growth and job creation ahead of all else, whoever the winners may be; and to respect the Constitution.
  • To prioritise the eradication of the capture of the state through reforming our state institutions.

Business is not expecting much. In fact we are only asking for the bare minimum requirement for any leader and any political party that is seeking the highest office – a strict adherence to the Constitution of South Africa.

Policy certainty is a key, what changes could possibly deter investment? Which policy moves would be positive for investor confidence?

We don’t think we need any more changes that can deter investment. Despite the policy uncertainty that we have experienced, the corruption and the questionable leadership, business still believes in South Africa and we are confident that we can go back on the right track with important policy reforms.

The immediate policy steps required to restore investor confidence will require fiscal policy and regulatory reform.

BLSA can and will play a role in communicating to the investor community once the appropriate steps are taken by the government to reform and expunge the twin cancers of state capture and corruption.

BLSA has set out conditions and a roadmap for the government to promote inclusive growth and transformation while simultaneously restoring investor confidence:

  • The eradication of state capture.
  • Enforcing strict fiscal discipline. This will mean that the government must commit to not adding large and unnecessary spending programmes to the existing budget plans.
  • Reform of state-owned enterprises. This reform will require measures to address the leadership, governance and balance sheets of SOEs. No more bailouts.
  • A review of the national budget and making necessary adjustments. These adjustments will be painful, but business can work closely with government to ensure that vital cuts are not imposed on key national institutions and social support programmes such as grants, housing and Expanded Public Works Programmes are maintained.

What kind of leader is business looking for? What should this leader be prioritising going forward?

We don’t need to look any further than our own home and nation that we love dearly to look for the kind of leaders we deserve.

We have been incredibly fortunate to have had leaders who demonstrated the necessary traits that can support our country’s political and economic transformation. We’ve had leaders with incredible courage and a moral compass. We must learn the lessons of Madiba’s struggle, courage and leadership.

Ethical and moral leadership will be a necessity for any individual or party seeking the presidency of this great nation.

We will need a leader who will prioritise the interests of our people and place politics and politicking on the backburner. The leader will also need to prioritise good governance and restore confidence in state institutions. The deficit of trust that currently exists in South Africa is significant, but it is not insurmountable.

I would very much welcome the next leader of South Africa to join BLSA in our Contract with South Africa and Integrity Pledge.

How will BLSA’s social contract with South Africa and the outcomes of the ANC conference come together?

As I mentioned, I would welcome any political leader from any party to join BLSA in our Contract with South Africa. Many of the goals and initiatives we are seeking to achieve with our contract should not be viewed as separate from the tasks and responsibilities that government has to adhere to for the people of South Africa.

We are willing to work with anyone who will prioritise South Africa, promote sustainable economic growth policies that create a conducive environment to create jobs, and restore confidence in South Africa as one of the most important leaders on the continent.

We have been recently downgraded- are there concerns of a further downgrade based on the outcome of the ANC conference? What does business think is the best way forward for the slow growing economy?

There are real risks of further downgrades and what happens during the conference will feed into future credit reviews by the ratings agencies.

The most immediate response by the government will be the February budget presentation.

It’s clear that the investor community has put us on notice and every policy and political decision will be dissected.

We are likely going to get more bad news about the state of the economy, but South Africa and South Africans in particular are a resilient people.

I have so much hope for our country and know that with the right leadership and focus, we can get our country back on track. Business will be waiting for a willing partner in government, but we will do what we can to help jump-start the economy.

Published on Fin24 (14 December 2017)