Customers shop at Pick n Pay in Carlton Centre, Johannesburg. File picture: Leon Nicholas
Cape Town - Pick n Pay chairperson Gareth Ackerman on Wednesday launched a robust defence of South African business and accused politicians of “creating even further uncertainty at a time when our economy is under considerable strain”.

Ackerman used his opening remarks at the company’s annual results' presentation to hit back at politicians, saying: “Despite an anti-business rhetoric, companies like Pick n Pay are doing everything we can to support consumers and sustain South Africa.”

The son of Pick n Pay founder, Raymond Ackerman, noted the company’s “considerable” contribution to the fiscus. “We have invested over R5 billion in new and refurbished stores over the past four years. We have created over 10 000 new jobs. This last year alone, we have paid R470 million in company tax, collected R770 million in VAT and paid R810 million in employee-related taxes.”

Ackerman pointed to the recent sovereign ratings' downgrades by international agencies S&P Global and Fitch, and raised concerns about the potential impact on inflation.

The agencies laid the blame for the downgrades squarely at the feet of President Jacob Zuma, pointing to his late-night cabinet reshuffle which saw former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, axed.

Any impact on inflation “with any interest rate increase would directly affect consumers already struggling to balance household budgets with little if any room to manoeuvre”, Ackerman pointed out.

As well as chairing Pick n Pay, Ackerman serves as co-chair of the Consumer Goods Council of SA, whose members contribute about R500 billion annually to gross domestic product, or more than 18 percent of the total. The sector employs more than 2.9 million people, or about 23percent of the total in South Africa.

He emphaised that it was important in difficult times for business as a whole to “take responsibility by setting out what it believes is in the interests of the South African economy” in the pursuit of achieving sustainable economic growth.