President Cyril Ramaphosa’s maiden State of the Nation Address was broadly welcomed by business organisations, who committed to working with the new president on the various working groups and summits he outlined in a bid to kickstart the economy.
“The address was statesmanlike and set out a vision of a prosperous, inclusive, united South Africa, with an ethical leadership that serves its people”, the Banking Association of South Africa (BASA) said in a statement after Ramaphosa addressed Parliament on Friday evening.
In September 2017 business confidence, as measured by the SA Chamber of Commerce, reached its lowest level since 1985.
BASA, which represents more than 30 local and international banks, said its members “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”.
The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa commended Ramaphosa for vowing to decrease corruption.
“We welcome President Ramaphosa’s commitments to reduce the size of his Cabinet, to fight corruption fearlessly, to appoint men and women of integrity into key positions in the public sector”, SEIFSA CEO Kaizer Nyatsumba said in a statement.
In his address Ramaphosa promised to “intervene decisively to stabilise and revitalise state owned enterprises” saying that South Africans could look at his intervention at Eskom for an indication of what to expect.
The president had in January, when still deputy president, ordered Eskom to appoint a new board and fire all executives accused of corruption and maladministration.
The newly elected president repeatedly emphasised the importance of reviving the manufacturing sector as part of his ‘New Deal’ plan while he was on the campaign trail for the ANC presidency.
The sector has been in decline for some time. Manufacturing contributed nearly a quarter of SA’s GDP in the 1980s, but made up 13% of South Africa’s total GDP in 2016.
Nyatsumba said that SEIFSA, which represents around 1 600 manufacturing companies, was looking forward to working with the new president to change the fortunes of the metals and engineering sector.
The Chamber of Mines is still set to go to court on Monday to challenge Mining Charter III, which it has said would hobble the sector if implemented.
And while there was no indication by Ramaphosa in his address on Friday that the court case could or would be averted, he promised to “intensify engagements with all stakeholders” around the Charter.
The mining industry body has been a fierce critic of Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane.
But it has adopted a different tone towards Ramaphosa.
“On behalf of our members, the Chamber wishes President Ramaphosa everything of the best as he sets about tackling the challenges created by several years of destructive governance”, Chamber of Mines President Mxolisi Mgojo said.
Mgojo added that The Chamber commits to working with Ramaphosa to help create a “proper vision and stragety” for the mining industry.
READ: Ramaphosa vows to step up efforts to break Mining Charter impasse
The CEO initiative said it was, on the whole, “encouraged by the positive tone of the SONA”.
“Business is committed to continue working with labour and the government [to stimulate growth and create jobs] which should set the country on the course for sustained success,” its convenor Jabu Mabuza said in a statement on Saturday.
The initiative particularly welcomed sections of the address that it said may boost investor confidence, including promises to confront state capture and corruption, restore the health of state owned enterprises, and establish a commission of inquiry into tax administration and governance at the SA Revenue Service.