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Government’s turnaround time holds small businesses back

Sipho Nkosi is leader of the Presidency’s ‘red tape team’. Picture: File

Sipho Nkosi is leader of the Presidency’s ‘red tape team’. Picture: File

Published May 13, 2022

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Lorato Tshenkeng

Pretoria - “If we are to make progress in cutting unnecessary bureaucratic delays for businesses, we need dedicated capacity with the means to make changes.”

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This is what President Cyril Ramaphosa said when announcing the appointment of respected businessman Sipho Nkosi as leader of the Presidency’s “red tape team” during this year’s State of the Nation Address.

Ramaphosa has yet to outline the terms of reference, scope and authority of the presidential red tape team.

It is reasonable to expect this team’s terms of reference to have been expedited for approval by the president, when considering a number of reasons.

One – the economy is, and should be, a priority for his administration.

Two – a precedent was set when the president in just over a month approved the terms of reference of the expert panel to review the response to the unrest in July last year.

Three – Ramaphosa claims the intervention is consistent with the standards of governments around the world to benefit companies of all sizes.

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Four – and most importantly – the only way to ensure that small businesses thrive is through proper reforms and pragmatic solutions with swift implementation.

Small Business Development Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, delivering her budget vote for the financial year 2022/23 this past Tuesday, regurgitated the president’s words without any update on progress made. By now, if there was political will and Ndabeni-Abrahams was an advocate for small businesses, she should have used the budget vote to appraise South Africans on some practical steps taken to reduce red tape, instead of just providing a report-back from the roadshows.

Writer Lorato Tshenkeng is the founder and CEO of Decode Communications, a Pan-African Reputation Management firm.

If the economy is as urgent to the government as it claims, shouldn’t it borrow from its own experience when South Africa hosted the 2010 Fifa World Cup? At the time, a number of concessions were made to ensure the country’s readiness, and to showcase to the world Africa’s ability to host a mega tournament successfully.

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For instance, special courts dedicated to handling crimes committed during the World Cup were created, with the aim of speeding up the judicial process.

To date, many small businesses are owed millions of rand by government departments, agencies and state-owned companies, yet there is a regulation in place to pay invoices within 30 days, and accounting officers continue to ignore it because they know there will be no consequences for their actions that sabotage the economy.

Fortunately, the appointment of Nkosi may be just the tonic needed to help improve government efficiencies and turnaround times. With his experience in running successful businesses, and current involvement with the Small Business Institute and the Centre for Development and Enterprise, he is definitely the right man for the job.

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However, the big question remains: Is Nkosi willing to soil his impeccable reputation by serving in a task team that moves at snail’s pace, or will he crack the whip to get the wheels moving faster?

Part of preserving his reputation starts with setting the tone with a good communication strategy. While Nkosi is a media-shy leader who prefers to have his work speak for him, he will need to take South Africans into his confidence through proactive engagement and communication.

Importantly, his communication strategy should focus on demonstrating results and impact, and consequence management for economic saboteurs. Nkosi may need to borrow from the approach of the Competition Commission or the Special Investigating Unit.

Proactive communication and engagement have boosted public confidence in these two state entities.

If Nkosi were to take advice from an ordinary person like myself, I would say to him: “Remember, your work is not done until you have communicated. So, restore confidence through proactive engagement and communication.”

Pretoria News

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