President of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), Sipho Pityana File photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)

JOHANNESBURG - President of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), Sipho Pityana, said on Tuesday the time for business to bemoan the destruction to the economy during the nine years under President Jacob Zuma's administration, was over.

Pityana was speaking at the inaugural 2019 Business Economic Indaba in Johannesburg.

Attended by captains of industry, labour and government representatives, the Indaba is intended to re-affirm business' commitment to partner with government and to generate ideas that will transform the economy and achieve inclusive growth.

"As President Ramaphosa said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, we must all bemoan the fact that South Africa has essentially lost nine years of its life under his predecessor. If we use this opportunity wisely, those years will be a forgotten past. While we will never get back the lost years – we must be spurred on, to make up for the lost time, and to ensure that we get our economy, our democracy and our wonderful country back on track," Pityana said.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, the time for moaning is well passed. Now, we must focus on meaningful partnerships for change."

Pityana challenged business and government to rebuild trust and restore confidence in the economy among both domestic and foreign investors, saying that the challenge of building a transformed and inclusive economy with  a strong ethical foundation, must be met.

He said business needed to clearly define its role and contribution to the economic repositioning, and that BUSA, as the apex entity representing South African businesses, must come up with the apex blueprint for how business will assist in driving the process of ensuring inclusive high economic growth.

"We should therefore use this Indaba to identify pressing challenges and set the tone and narrative of how we can play our part. President Ramaphosa has made a concerted effort to maintain sufficiently business-friendly policy to encourage foreign investment," Pityana said.

"Similarly, the President’s economic stimulus and recovery plan includes measures to improve the regulatory environment in critical sectors of the economy. Over the past year, we have made huge progress in restoring the spirit of purposeful partnership among the key role players in the economy."

Pityana alao said that South Africa needs a new framework for growth. He said it was clear that a substantial part of society had become embittered not only with the excesses in the political system, but also with those who hold economic power as exemplified through violent service delivery protests. 

"If unchecked, this rumbling resentment and the feeling of despair could trigger populism that may reverse all our democratic gains. In short, the level of inequality in our country is now an economic risk," he said.

"The answer is not to close ranks and protect each other at all costs. Rather, we should foster a genuine partnership that sets us on the path to transformed and inclusive growth."

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to lead a government delegation to the Indaba and also deliver a keynote address later in the day.

- African News Agency (ANA)