Government leads partnerships in addressing pressing challenges

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by Michael Currin

Our history has shown that when South Africans pull together in partnership, there is nothing that we cannot overcome. We adeptly demonstrated this when we worked together to drive back the spread of COVID-19 through a societal-wide approach.

The strong partnerships forged between government, business, organised labour and civil society were instrumental in saving precious lives. This partnership has today become a blueprint to address our country’s most pressing challenges in energy, transport and logistics, and crime and corruption.

The roll-out of partnerships in these focal areas between government, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, and business leadership, represented by Business Unity South Africa, has galvanised our collective energies to improve our country’s prospects.

Through jointly implementing key interventions to end load-shedding, improve our logistics system’s performance, and address crime and corruption, we are creating a fertile environment for inclusive growth, job creation and increased public confidence, while enhancing the implementation capacity of the State.

In many of these areas, government itself has taken the bold lead through policy initiatives and dedicated programmes to bring about change to many lives, as we aspire to, as a proudly South African nation. Under the stewardship of President Ramaphosa, we have developed targeted interventions such as the Energy Action Plan (EAP), Freight Logistics Roadmap, Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP), and National Anti-Corruption Strategy.

Government has also been working around the clock to restore our credibility, stabilise finances and improve the operational performance and governance within state-owned companies.  We have accelerated key reforms under Operation Vulindlela, a joint initiative of The Presidency and National Treasury, to secure confidence in sectors affected by regulatory uncertainty and unlock greater investment in growth sectors.

Since the establishment of Operation Vulindlela three years ago, targeting 19 priority reforms, government, in collaboration with social partners, has seen progress in the reforms that will help rebuild the economy and create jobs.

What we need to consider, however, are the constant headwinds that South Africa is confronted with, including global conflicts which impact our supply chains; the legacy of our distorted past, including the recent state capture, and our own strained financial resources.  As such, government cannot achieve the desired results on its own, but has certainly demonstrated over recent years that it has been working hard to rebuild trust with South Africans and stabilise public finances.

The years of state capture and corruption subjected the Public Service and state-owned entities to the worst kind of abuse at the hands of people who tried to institutionalise their corrupt actions and took a great toll on the capacity of the State.

We believe that, through the joint action and pooling of resources, we can address our critical challenges to set our country on a path to recovery. This must be seen as a national, patriotic effort requiring all of us to contribute our very best. Business, with its considerable skills, capacity and resources, is ideally positioned to help in rebuilding our economy.

Importantly, our partnerships should not be construed as government reneging on its commitments to the people of South Africa, or even shirking its responsibilities to the private sector and society at large in creating an enabling environment to build a better life for all.

We have consistently shown that we are advancing our nation’s key priorities and willingly taking the necessary and calculated decisions to move our country forward. Through our ERRP, we have drawn all of society in a common front that has helped our economy claw back to pre-COVID-19 levels.

In March last year, President Ramaphosa directed Transnet to swiftly implement reforms to turn around the crisis in our logistics system. In consultation with industry stakeholders, a comprehensive Freight Logistics Roadmap was developed, which will translate our policy commitments into reality.

This partnership is already being felt on the ground with business, for example, supporting recovery efforts following the collision of two trains on the coal line outside Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal on 14 January 2024. Our partners, among others, provided heavy earth moving and breakdown equipment to clear the accident site. This hands-on support is a reflection of true patriotism in action that goes a long way in uplifting our nation and building national pride. It allowed Transnet’s Freight Rail to speedily restore this critical coal export line, by 20 January 2024, ahead of schedule.

The steadfast implementation of the country’s EAP, introduced by President Ramaphosa in 2022 to address our energy challenges, ensured an improved performance in our energy generation system, which has subsequently led to a measurable decline in the frequency and severity of load shedding. These energy interventions are driven at the highest level through the National Energy Crisis Committee, which is led by government and supported by business, and the millions of South Africans who make every effort in using only the electricity they need, thus reducing demand on the grid.

Government’s efforts in rooting out corruption are bearing fruit because those who were identified in the State Capture Commission as having abused state resources through corruption are being made to account. One of our top priorities was the adoption of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2020 – 2030 and the steady but certain move to implement the recommendations of the State Capture Commission.

This has translated to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) freezing R10.7 billion over the past four years and its Asset Forfeiture Unit recovering R2.83 billion from corrupt activities. In state capture cases, the NPA has recovered R2.55 billion. More recently, German Software company, SAP, agreed to pay R2.2 billion in restitution to state entities and government departments after investigations by South African authorities found that the company had bribed officials to win contracts.

The strong public-private partnerships we have forged with business, social partners and communities to fight crime and corruption will, together with our own initiatives, go a long way in reversing this societal scourge.

Our work in these key areas is a clear statement of intent to lead and create an environment for greater development and faster economic growth. It affirms our commitment to do everything within our ambit to take the country forward.

We are confident that through our shared determination, we can overcome the severe challenges that we currently face. Government will continue to mobilise our country’s substantial capabilities across all sectors to rebuild our economy and set us on a path of sustained inclusive growth. However, this will be achieved through the patriotic efforts of each of us, which will make it possible for us to advance towards the realisation of the concept of a better life for all.

Michael Currin is Deputy Director General at GCIS.