Picture: Phando Jikelo/ANA

Johannesburg - The Banking Association of South Africa (Basa) is relieved by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s commitment to build a new society after the long period of corruption that "characterised the previous presidency", Basa said on Saturday.

"We join the widespread applause of the State of the Nation Address [SONA] by the President of South Africa Mr Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa," Basa MD Cas Coovadia said.

The address was statesmanlike and set out a vision of a prosperous, inclusive, united South Africa, with an ethical leadership that served its people. "As a sector, we take heed that we are building a country 'where a person’s prospects are determined by their own initiative and hard work, and not by the colour of their skin, place of birth, gender, language, or income of their parents',” he said.

"After the long period of corruption that characterised the previous presidency, we are relieved by Mr Ramaphosa’s commitment to 'build a society defined by decency and integrity, that does not tolerate the plunder of public resources, nor the theft by corporate criminals of the hard-earned savings of ordinary people'.

"We must urgently correct the erosion of the capacity of the state and institutions of governance, so that we can effectively achieve the programme set out by the president. Mr Ramaphosa’s commitment to look at the structure, number, and size of national departments and to ensure a capable state is welcome," Coovadia said. 

South African banks were ready to respond to the call for business to work with other stakeholders towards the recovery of the economy and country.  "We will play our part in the proposed investment conference and the work groups and commissions on pressing national issues like economic growth, youth employment, and the digital industrial revolution." These would help formulate practical policies that could be implemented and help build an economy geared for the current realities.

It was vital that government follow through on the commitment to stabilise and revitalise state-owned enterprises (SoEs) by appointing capable board members with integrity; removing board members from any role in procurement; and developing alternate funding models for SoEs in serious financial trouble – Eskom foremost among them. Basa looked forward to seeing quick action on this, Coovadia said.

Ramaphosa also committed to abide by the rulings of the Constitutional Court, especially those regarding the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the distribution of social grants. This commitment to the rule of law was essential for business and the social development of the country.

South African banks had repeatedly said they were willing and able to ensure that social grants were legally distributed to their beneficiaries, within the terms of the Constitutional Court hearings. "We hope that the way is now clear for a transparent, honest engagement between the banks and the Sassa and department of social development."

 Ramaphosa's undertaking to ensure a professional public service empathetic to the needs of people was welcomed by all South Africans. Of particular importance was the announcement of a commission of inquiry into the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and support for small businesses.

"The speech will go a long way to creating policy certainty and encouraging domestic and foreign investment, necessary for inclusive economic growth and job creation. Basa will be a willing partner with the president on land reform, economic inclusion, and transformation, among other critical areas. We hear his echo of Thuma Mina by Hugh Masekela and want to be among the first to answer the call," Coovadia said.

African News Agency/ANA