Busisiwe Mavuso, the chief executive officer of Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), says she is optimistic about the future of South Africa – because she knows the economy can be transformed, and the process has already started.
Mavuso said that big businesses in South Africa have a reputation for ‘consistently criticising’ the government. However, this stems from a firm belief in successful economic restructuring.
She said that whenever she is “struck by despair” at the state of the country generally or when the government thrusts another self-inflicted wound upon itself, she reminds herself that the economy is in the midst of a massive restructuring following Covid-19.
“We’re earnestly trying to transform the economy, pivoting it from its state of inefficiency, where key sectors such as energy, water and transport are malfunctioning, into a dynamic one that grows and creates jobs based on a foundation of efficient state services down to the local government level.”
Mavuso’s optimism is not entirely based on whether the country successfully implements all the reforms, but also on the performance of some of the country’s state entities and Chapter 9 institutions, including:
- The Public Protector;
- The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC); and
- The Auditor-General.
“We also have pockets of excellence in the private sector and civil society, a fiercely independent judiciary and freedom of speech, spearheaded by a robust media that regularly exposes government malfeasance which would remain hidden in many other countries,” said Mavuso.
She pointed to the actions of Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke, who recently reported on the government’s lacklustre response to the KZN floods.
Mavuso said Maluleke issued a report that signified both the best and worst of South Africa: an underperforming state but independent and often highly capable oversight thereof.
“The A-G’s office, in particular, is one of our democracy’s gems, highlighting in detail the deficiencies of government departments, municipalities and public institutions in its annual audit reports,” said Mavuso.
In many countries, state institutions that highlight government deficiencies are quickly shut down, as is freedom of speech, but in South Africa, criticism of the government is part and parcel of everyday life.
Furthermore, the recent arrests and court appearances of senior executives implicated by the Zondo commission report indicate that we’re starting to hold senior people accountable for their crimes, she said.
“For long stretches of our democratic history, the government simply ignored much of the criticism but nowadays, the lack of accountability is also being addressed – with structural reforms.”
Mavuso said the country had come a long way with the energy market now rapidly liberalising and rail, air transport and ports slowly opening to the private sector.
She stressed, however, that there are many more obstacles that still have to be overcome as a country before economic transformation is complete.