Business continues to pour significant resources into partnering with government to solve our most pressing challenges. I have in the past argued that this partnership critically depends on both sides truly committing to make it work. I must say that after a meeting last week with the president and several ministers from his cabinet, I have confidence that government’s commitment to working in partnership to deal with the priority issues has escalated and started gaining momentum.
The challenges we face are acute and clearly in everyone’s interest to resolve. The mining sector is now facing significant retrenchments, with some 35 000 jobs at risk. The collapsing logistics system is one of the main drivers. The urgency of fixing Transnet and our road networks is clear and both government and business are working hard together to find solutions. The National Logistics Crisis Committee (NLCC) now has six of its eight streams fully operational, while the remaining two will transition from Operation Vulindlela.
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Together we can make a difference. The partnership to deal with the electricity crisis, now running for over a year,has made the most progress. The National Energy Crisis Committee is delivering on the Energy Action Plan – a detailed assessment of the best way to resolve the electricity crisis that was agreed between business and government. The partnership has seen the deployment of technical support teams to five power stations and working to bring Kusile’s three units back online.
It is bearing fruit – unit 3 at Kusile, which can produce 720MW or close to a full stage of load shedding, is ready to return to service two months ahead of schedule thanks to the collaboration and interventions. The unit was taken out of service a year ago after a flue gas desulphurisation duct collapsed. Almost 130 private sector volunteers are working in partnership with Eskom and government to support the effort. Government has expedited several pieces of legislation required to implement the EAP, particularly the establishment of an independent National Transmission Company of South Africa which has now been licensed to become the grid operator able to procure energy from many sources.
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The NLCC’s interventions aim to improve the functioning of bulk rail systems and the ports. Five strategic corridors have been identified and recovery teams with industry representatives and independent experts have been established to work with Transnet to increase freight volumes. A team has been formed to address congestion at the Lebombo border crossing, while another work stream has been established to focus on restoring passenger rail services. These streams are now gearing up and there was a sense from last week’s meeting of genuine commitment to ensure that they are successful. Law enforcement is working to protect rail infrastructure through several interventions.
Progress is also being made in dealing with crime and corruption, building on the partnership we have formed with the National Prosecuting Authority.
Government has agreed to a cadence of follow-up meetings every six weeks and I expect, and hope, we will see even more tangible evidence of delivery.
For me, the most outstanding feature of last week’s meeting was the spirit of engagement and collaboration. It was a genuine solutions-seeking effort. The president was clear that the objectives are to do right for South Africa, not to further the narrow interests of any party.
We will continue to support government to deliver as long as there is clear progress and evidence that our support is having a material impact on the business environment.
Government needs business to do well, as a major employer and taxpayer, and together we can establish the conditions to enable that. Those conditions require effective policy, public services and network industries, which are critical to every South African.
The collaboration is making tangible progress and after last week’s meeting I anticipate that we will make more progress quicker. Business For South Africa has convened the business side of the effort and BLSA is a major contributor. We will continue working hard to build on the progress we have made.
Busi Mavuso is CEO Business Leadership South Africa.