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JOHANNESBURG - The 3rd Southern African Metals and Engineering Indaba at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) kicked off on Thursday at conference centre in Johannesburg.

Answering the question of whether the political leadership in South Africa advances or hampers economic growth, Joel Netshitenzhe, Mapungubwe Institute for Strategy Reflection (MISTRA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) said business, labour and other social partners should work together to punish those involved in corruption and state capture, 

Netshitenzhe said: “If you looked at the National Industrial Policy Framework, the Industrial Policy Action Plan and the outcome of the recent ANC policy conference, you will find that there are very rational ideas about how to ignite growth, how to eliminate weaknesses in state-owned enterprises, how to ensure close cooperation among social partners and how to punish those who are involved in corruption and state capture.

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In the South African context, there is no shortage of visions, policies and rational articulation on what needs to be done. The challenge is with implementation.”

Netshitenzhe said there were numerous deficits in political leadership in South Africa and across the region and this applied to state capacity and political legitimacy.

“We need to pose the question – in instances where the state is weak, where government has got serious deficits, what should business, labour and other social partners do? It would be wrong in my view of us to throw our hands up in despair. Rather we need to soldier on and pursue what is in the best interest of our companies, sectors and the economy as a whole.

By doing so, we will be strengthening the healthy forces in government and making life difficult and uncomfortable for those who are bent on illicit accumulation. South Africa is fortunate because we have got a noisy civil society and an independent and autonomous private sector,” he said.

African National Congress (ANC) member of Parliament Makhosi Khoza called for a brutally honest engagement about the problems facing South Africa especially with regard to the restoration of human dignity and unemployment in South Africa.

Khoza said the extent to which local industries were protected and the content of trade agreements depended to a large extent on political leadership.

“Political leadership matters because behind the unemployment statistics are people. There is no way our people can have their restored for as long as long as they are unemployed. There is no dignity in unemployment,” Khoza said. She said the country’s political leadership was indifferent about the plight of the unemployed.

She said South Africa should go back to some of the trade agreements and ponder if these were in the interest of South Africans. “Are they serving the interest of our people?”  She said.

Commenting on the influx of cheap imports mainly from China, Khoza said local entrepreneurs felt let down by authorities. “We do not seem to understand the extent of the impact of the Chinese imports,” she said.

Mamphele Ramphele, Independent Director of Companies said: “I would like to suggest that business leader’s look inside them and move away from being spectators of wrong doings and ask a question of how they have let the country down.

“BEE in a country that is predominately black is not logic. If you want to succeed as business person, you want to be able to have a large market, customer base and you can’t do that by empowering the majority in the narrow sense.”

“You do that by making sure that the way we do business is different from the way it has been done so that we can have an inclusive, innovative, productive economy that brings everybody into the form so that human potential is harnessed to build our prosperous democracy,” she said.  

-BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE