The SAA strike cost our country millions of rand in business. Photo: Siyabonga Sishi/Reuters

CAPE TOWN – In fewer than 30 days people around the world will reflect on the past 365 days, some will be happy, celebrating success with loved ones. Others will be concerned, thousands of people in South Africa lost jobs, and even worse, they lost hope.

Thousands of South Africans are emigrating, hoping for a better future somewhere in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the US or elsewhere.

In 2019 we, at Business Report, tackled issues related to some of our top 100 JSE-listed companies considering moving their primary listing abroad.

Several companies unbundled, others were investigated for allegations related to fraudulent business dealings.

Many chief executives were suspended, in the private and public sector. Some ministers were called out and accused of partaking in some sort of state capture activities.

More recently was the SAA strike, costing our country millions of rand in business. The strike definitely made a dent on the tourism industry, weakening travellers’ confidence in the national airline and further damaging the country’s profile.

All this at a time when Cape Town was awarded the top tourist destination in the world.

To add to the list, commissions of inquiry, costing taxpayers millions of rand, were appointed to probe corporate governance issues. The Zondo Commission into State Capture and the Mpati Commission on impropriety allegations at the Public Investment Corporation kept every journalist on their toes.

I often wondered what is the true intent of these commissions. In my view, these turned into more of a political football, used to either divert the attention from a much bigger state capture saga (for lack of a better word), or to try to “expose” business leaders with good intentions to empower our people, build and grow businesses.

President Cyril Ramaphosa hosted the second Investment Summit last month, where mostly local companies pledged billions of rand in support the his drive to attract investment. In reality, the rand, which I often refer to as South Africa’s share price, weakened. Business confidence indices declined, unemployment figures painted a dark picture, and the rating agencies - paid millions by the government (including state-owned entities) and corporate companies - are the only ones that smiled all the way to the bank.

Do we really need foreign rating agencies to dictate our future? The very same rating agencies, such as Standard & Poor’s, were fined billions of dollars over many years for insider trading, even in the US. Yet, these very same “trusted asset managers”, still enjoy the power to dictate our future. Come on!

I sat opposite Ramaphosa at the World Economic Forum 2018, when he was still deputy president. I asked him, no, I almost begged him to include the media, all media, in government discussions with business and labour, so that we can convey a message of hope via our various portals to the people. I am sure he will recall my plea.

So, what is my wish list for 2020?

A Job Monitor, per sector, per province. I challenge business leaders and government to join Business Report in this drive. Let’s focus on a skills audit, and train our people and equip them for future jobs. Fellow South Africans, we’ve got a lot to offer, not only to the world at large but also to each other.

Africa is on the map. If we, as Africans and South Africans don’t take hands, roll up our sleeves and work together others, eager to take over our mines and land, will steal more than our minerals. Let us protect our real asset, our brand. A stronger share price will be the result.

Let us be proud as South Africans. Wear your scarves, support our sports teams and inspire our people in the workplace. President Ramaphosa writes a letter to citizens every Monday in a bid to reach out to all the citizens.

PS: To Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, I suggest we implement a new tax: a Happiness Tax, combined with the SA Happiness Monitor. Maybe Comair, bestowed with the Top Employer 2019 award, can be a co-sponsor. A perfect public-private partnership.

BUSINESS REPORT