27/04/2011 President Jacob Zuma at the Union Building during the freedom day celebration. Picture : Sizwe Ndingane

Pretoria - Frosty relations between the government and businesses appear to have thawed a little after a meeting between President Jacob Zuma and business leaders on Sunday.

The Presidency said the parties had agreed to meet again within two months “to iron out obstacles to economic growth”.

Business leaders had approached Zuma at the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, last month, asking for an opportunity to “engage the government on priorities” before Zuma’s State of the Nation address on February 14.

“The meeting focused on the importance of achieving employment-creating economic growth and on deeper co-operation between government and business,” the Presidency said.

“We share the goal of promoting a strong and positive South African brand. We therefore need to work very closely together, especially at this critical period when our economy is affected by the harsh European economic meltdown that refuses to go away.

“We have to find a way to cushion the economy, improve our growth prospects and create much-needed jobs. Whenever we pull together, we manage to achieve a lot for our country and its people,” Zuma told the meeting, according to the Presidency’s statement.

Business Unity SA president Jabu Mabuza pointed out that the National Development Plan had suggested the economy needed to grow threefold by 2030 to deal with the socio-economic challenges facing the country.

“Seventy-five percent of the jobs must come from the private sector. We are engaging our members to point out three to five constraints that make it difficult for business to triple economic growth by 2030,” he said.

The business delegation was led by Mabuza and Black Business Council president Ndaba Ntsele, while Zuma was accompanied by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and economic cabinet committee ministers.

The government delegation had sought ideas on how to get business to absorb 11 000 Further Education and Training college graduates currently sitting at home.

The meeting, at the Sefako Makgatho presidential guest house in Pretoria, follows the bitter public feud between the government and First National Bank over its “You can help” advertising campaign which included interviews with youths critical of the government, and outrage from the government and ruling party over platinum giant Amplats’s announcement of restructuring plans that it said could lead to 14 000 job losses.

The ANC was also reported to have been highly critical of business at its national executive committee lekgotla last week.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe reportedly told the lekgotla sections of the business community were “reluctant to contribute” to economic development.

Political Bureau