JOHANNESBURG - Woolworths chairman, Simon Susman, in the retailer's latest annual report has slammed President Jacob Zuma for putting the economy under strain and for the lack of leadership shown. '
“The president’s apparent concern for his personal interests above those of the country has put incredible strain on the economy. Already hampered by red tape and restrictive labour legislation, it is now exceedingly difficult for business, especially small entrepreneurs, to drive meaningful, inclusive growth and jobs. "As ever, the greatest sufferers will be the poor and those millions desperately seeking employment,” said Susman in Woolworth's annual report released on Friday.
Woolworths last month reported its first decline in annual profits in eight years in the year to end June. The group’s headline earnings per share (heps), which measures profits, declined 7.6 percent to 420.9 cents per share and turnover was up 3%.
Susman said the political uncertainty had resulted in business pulling the brakes on investments.
“The current climate has forced, not just Woolworths, but thousands of other businesses around the country to pull back on capital expenditure and on job creation. The sooner we see a change towards a values-based political and economic leadership, the faster we can all get back to growing our economy and to creating those desperately needed jobs,” he said.
“The economic headwinds that our customers are feeling and the on-going expansion of top foreign competitors, keep on driving us back to the core set of values which our customers so deeply trust – sourcing beautiful goods with a difference at value for money prices,” Susman said.
Susman charged that never before had the lack of leadership been more evident than in the recent firing of Pravin Gordhan by Jacob Zuma in March. “ As a direct result, the country’s credit rating was downgraded and trust in government has dropped to an all-time low,” he said.
Susman’s comments echoed comments by Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) chief executive, Bonang Mohale, who in media reports recently said that the ANC and Zuma had broken the business community’s trust after he recalled Gordhan from an investment roadshow in the UK and then fired him in a cabinet shuffle.
“Often when we talked about the trust deficit, we always pointed the finger at business, but this time, we honestly know that there is a lack of trust because it was broken by the president,” said Mohale. South Africa slipped into a recession after contracting 0.7% in the first three months of 2017, however economists were expecting the country to emerge from the recession in the second quarter after improvements in retail, utilities, wholesale trade and mining sectors.
Statistics South Africa is scheduled release second quarter Gross Domestic Product figures today (Tuesday).
- BUSINESS REPORT