A country that faces a poly-crisis needs poly-response, says business and labour

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) CEO Cas Coovadia addresses the National Economic Development and Labour Council's (Nedlac) 28th Annual National Summit at Gallagher Estate in Midrand. Picture: Supplied

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) CEO Cas Coovadia addresses the National Economic Development and Labour Council's (Nedlac) 28th Annual National Summit at Gallagher Estate in Midrand. Picture: Supplied

Published Sep 8, 2023


Business and Labour have voiced their concerns about South Africa’s economic state, calling for a more partnered approach.

Both business and labour representatives in South Africa have said that the economy would not grow by some miracle with a business-as-usual approach, nor will it rebound with an approach that chokes the State of the resources it needs to provide quality public services that businesses, workers, and communities depend on.

Addressing the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) 28th Annual National Summit at Gallagher Estate in Midrand on Friday, Business Unity SA CEO Cas Coovadia agreed that the world was in a "poly-crisis" and this required a "poly-response".

However, he said South Africa also faced a "poly-crisis" of sorts, and Nedlac must respond accordingly.

The Summit provided an opportunity for a larger delegation of Nedlac social partners from organised business, community, government, and organised labour, as well as other stakeholders, to receive and consider a report on the activities of the institution.

Speaking on Nedlac’s report, Coovadia said it highlighted the crises South Africa faced across a very broad front. This included a negative trend in critical economic and social indicators, ranging from decreasing GDP to increasing inflation, increasing unemployment, and increasing public debt and debt servicing costs.

All of this, he said, was exacerbated by ongoing load shedding, deteriorating security conditions, the impact of climate change, and ongoing constraints to growth.

"This toxic mix has led to South Africa no longer being an attractive investment destination," he said.

Coovadia added that geopolitical dynamics globally were also very volatile, and critical developments like the Russia-Ukraine war, South Africa’s positioning on foreign policy, and some of the rhetoric around an otherwise valid move towards building a "south" bloc were all impacting negatively on the country.

He further said that South Africa has not seen decent levels of GDP growth since 2007, and since then the country has been hit with several crises, including load shedding, state capture, the Marikana disaster, the logistics and transport crisis, debilitatingly high levels of crime and corruption, infrastructure failures, and so on.

“All of this must challenge us to reflect deeply on our model of engagement as social partners. These things should not be happening in a normal society. How can we continue with the same mode of engagement when things are falling apart? Although Nedlac may not have all the answers, it is the perfect platform for all social partners to raise and address these tough questions,” he said.

He said Nedlac must ensure it is “fit-for-purpose” to be relevant in the current context and the challenges of the next decade. It must also be a forum for social dialogue and focus on programmes on which there is the greatest scope for collaboration across stakeholders, instead of being a conflictual platform.

“On public policy matters, Nedlac must facilitate as much agreement as possible among stakeholders, but must not try to reach consensus at all costs,” Coovadia said.

Organised Labour Overall Convenor and Cosatu deputy general secretary, Gerald Twala, said there was no excuse for setbacks when South Africa’s natural endowments, infrastructure, and its people’s passion to work were considered.

Twala advised that in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement and the February Budget, additional support should be allocated to Eskom to reduce and end load shedding, while urgent interventions must be undertaken to secure and rebuild Transnet and Prasa.

He added that more resources should be provided to South African Revenue Services (Sars) to tackle tax evasion and conduct lifestyle audits, as well as the police (SAPS), National Prosecuting Authority, and courts to combat crime and corruption.

Twala said that the Presidential Employment Programme must also be extended to accommodate one million active participants by October and two million by February.

He further called for the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant to be increased as well.

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