MUST LISTEN: Ramaphosa talks tough on graft, wayward SOEs ahead of #WEF18

JOHANNESBURG — Current Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa certainly knows how to get an audience to eat out of the palms of his hands. On Thursday morning, I found myself in the Hilton Hotel in Sandton, where I attended a briefing that the new ANC leader — together with a high-level government delegation — held in light of Team South Africa’s upcoming trip to Davos next week. What was remarkable about Ramaphosa’s speech was how powerful a speaker the man is. He had top business people and journalists mesmerised. Personally, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the man who, in a speech of about 20 minutes, elegantly trashed the Zuma era, promised action against those implicated in state capture and alluded to reforms needed to kickstart South Africa’s economy again. Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba became a side-show at the briefing as Ramaphosa answered the majority of questions from those in attendance. The audience ranged from the likes of Investec CEO Stephen Koseff to the JSE’s Nicky Newton-King. I left the briefing feeling inspired but also wondering whether Ramaphosa can live up to the tall promises he’s making. (Is this too good to be true?) Nevertheless, it does seem that the winds of change are blowing. The key question now is whether he can keep building on the momentum he gained in December. – Gareth van Zyl

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To the leaders and to the other ministers, who are here, and colleagues and ladies and gentlemen: I have the pleasure to be here. I take it we are here, as South Africans (possibly all of us) going to the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos to consolidate our message as a delegation comprised of business, government, labour, and civil society…

…. The governing party held its conference, as you heard, and came out with a new leadership, but also came out with, what I believe, is a very powerful message. A message of seeking to renew, not only the governing party but also our country. The message of unity, not only forging unity of the governing party but in the nation, as a whole. I would like to stress this part because many of us would have thought that, ‘it’s their own affair – they are trying to unite themselves and renew themselves.’ It’s much more overarching than just looking at the African National Congress (ANC) as a party. It’s about looking at us, as South Africans, renewing ourselves and uniting ourselves, and coming out of that period, which was a period of uncertainty, a period of a measure of darkness, and getting into a new phase.

I would like to believe that as a country, we are now all feeling that we are in a new phase, and this is certainly being felt through the length and the breadth of the country by ordinary people that we want to renew ourselves and our country. This is what we need to harness as a people, as a country, and as leaders across all spectrums of endeavour in our country. As we get into this, to begin to look at areas that need renewal, and there are many places that need renewal. The one overriding concern that people had leading up to this conference was political uncertainty, and I would like to believe that we now have certainty. We now have a new leadership that has been chosen that is going to take the country forward.

The National Executive Committee of the ANC is willing, ready, and prepared to take SA forward but it has also made a very important call and that important call is we want, through the process of consensus, the process of compact building to work with various role-players in our country to take SA from where it was, and a number of challenges that we face were mentioned, junk status, low growth, SOE dysfunctionality, and many other things. The key issue here is that leadership is now prepared and determined to work with all of us, to build that consensus, and to build a social compact.

If you read the 8th January statement, which set-out precisely what we want to do in this year you would have seen littered throughout that statement that working together, compact building is going to be something that we want to underpin everything that we are going to do. As a Team-SA that is going to Davos, it will be good and desirable for all of us to underpin everything we are going to say and to do in Davos, with a clear message that we want to work together, solidify this compact that we would like to see built. The key components of this compact should be policy certainty. We certainly want to see policy certainty across all, if you like, platforms. Where there’s been policy uncertainty we want to work together with the private sector, with labour, with community-based organisations, as government to infuse that certainty.

We want, as part of this compact, to have an economic recovery. Our most important task right now is to address the challenge of jobs, inequality, and poverty. We will be able to address all of that by recovering or getting our economy to recover, and we want to work together to ensure that there is an economic recovery. Government cannot do it alone. Nor can the private sector do it alone so, we want to work together, all of us as key role-players, in our economy to achieve this purpose. We want to make SA an attractive domain or an attractive country for investments, and address those issues that stand in the way of investments flowing into our country.

As we go to Davos my sole purpose in going there is to go and sell the country, and I would like to believe that it is a common and collective purpose, as all of us are going to Davos to go and sell SA. We should do that with the purpose of attracting investors to come to SA so, it will be increasing investor confidence in our country and, also addressing the key challenges that we face. Yes, we have been downgraded. It’s going to be a mammoth task to get us out of this trench or out of this hole, but working together – I’d like to believe that we can.

Another important thing is to stabilise our state-owned enterprises (SOE) and this is part of this ingredient in building this compact. Our SOEs, as we all know, are facing serious challenges and we need to work together to stabilise them. I’d like, and I’m not saying it very [drably? 0:09:09.3]. I’m saying, I’d like us to work together to stabilise those SOEs. There are a variety of measures that we need to take at a governance level, to make sure that we’ve got good people on the boards that run these SOEs. Really top-class executives, and good governance procedures and processes to avoid these terrible mishaps that have been happening in our SOEs, where rot seeped in and huge calamities then followed.

The other important thing, as part of this process, is to address the issue of corruption and State Capture. In this regard, we welcome the establishment of the Commission of Enquiry that State President has announced and we are looking forward to the finalisation of the terms of reference of this enquiry. We’ve said that in tandem we want to see action being taken against those who have done wrong things and we’ve already started seeing the beginning processes of precisely that. National Prosecuting Agency (NPA) is beginning to move and we welcome that. We welcome the actions that they are beginning to take and we want them to act with urgency to increase the tempo of the actions that need to be taken. The freezing of assets is an important component of this but we want to see much more, following on the actions that they should have taken some time ago.

Colleagues, a message that we will be taking to Davos now will be, we’ve been saying that we are going to address corruption and we are deadly serious, about addressing this, and we are now beginning to see the steps that are being taken in doing precisely this. The compact building, in my book, is going to be the important feature of what we need to do as South Africans, to move our country forward. By the way, through compact building, we’ve been able to achieve a great deal in the past. Minister Patel was reminding me that in 2009 when we faced the economic crisis that we went through, it was through the operation of working together between business, government, and labour that we were able to be better positioned.

Recently we saw what compact building can do when we negotiated what many people thought was an intractable type of process, which is to reach an agreement with the national minimal wage, and indeed, through compact building, business and government has been able to put their heads together to address the issue of how can we foster further investment in our country and, also how can we address the issue of jobs, particularly jobs for young people? Now, compact building has stood us in good stead, and I believe it’s going to continue to continue standing us in good stead. All I would like to say is, let us continue being committed to this process.

Of course, there will be starts and stops. There will always be two steps forward, and three steps backwards but we need to keep the momentum and keep moving forward and address all the challenges, all the problems that we will face along the way. We have the YES (Youth Employment Service) program that is now going to be finalised soon, and we want to see that commencing and we commend a number of colleagues who are here, who’ve been playing a critical role in making sure that we arrive at this. Mr Coleman, Mr Kosser, and a number of other colleagues, and the BBC have been involved in the process of ensuring that we reach conclusion on this. So that, in itself, is going to be a huge shot in the arm for our country, when we begin the process of addressing youth unemployment. Clearly, all these are going to be aimed at ensuring that we bolster our fortunes as a country.

The World Bank yesterday released a report, their Global Economic Prospects, and there’s a portion that is dubbed, which they say, ‘the world economy is enjoying synchronised recovery.’ Now, that for me, is the operative word – synchronised recovery, and that is precisely what we want to see in our country. We should have synchronised recovery and we’re dubbing it ‘recovery’ because that is precisely what we would like to see in our country that we should have an economic recovery. Economic recovery can only be engendered if we all work together, put shoulder to the wheel and address a number of problems.

There shall be no holocaust – any one of the role players, as Bonang Mohale standing here, was already alluding to. They should feel free to raise any problem and any challenge that our country faces. It is through that that we will then be able to have this synchronised recovery that we should have. World Bank report goes on to say, ‘it gives rise to a number of opportunities, particularly for developing economies.’ That should be so true for our own economy that we should have synchronised recovery of our economy because embedded in there should be great opportunities that all of us can grasp and work on.

Looking forward to a great year of unity, unity right across the board, to all of us. A great year of renewal, where we will be able to renew nearly everything that we do so that we can move towards this synchronised growth and recovery. Clearly, the growth has to be inclusive. That’s precisely what is needed in our country and as we go to Davos we have come up with a very good slogan, topic, or theme of shared growth. That’s precisely what should be operative in our own country, particularly as we address challenges of inequality, unemployment, and poverty.

Colleagues, as I end, I believe that we’ve got a good message to take to Davos. This ending of the year and this renewal and the unity purpose that has now been announced through the governing party’s conference gives us a great opportunity to face the world unashamedly. To face the world with a positive message, and to tell the world that as much as we are downgraded we’ve got green shoots beginning to emerge and we’re coming to the world as a unified South African team to give a positive message that SA, as Minister Gigaba was saying, is ready. As Bonang Mohale was saying, ‘we are ready and open for investments.’ I wish you all the very best to interact with a number of people at Davos and tell the SA story. A number of people have already said that they want to see the deputy president, and we’re going to be welcoming this, and in interacting with them, I would welcome opportunities where some of you will also be in the room, as we meet some of these people so that we can put forward a unified message, a single message, and where we put our best foot forward as South Africans.

Last year, as I conclude, we did very well. I hadn’t been to Davos for a very long time, but last year I thought we did extremely well. Even the dinner where we invited a number of people, were interested in our country. It was a great dinner and I believe this year there is also going to be wine tasting. If nothing else, that’s the most important thing I’m going to Davos for. I think we will have a very good opportunity. I’m going to Davos this time quite seriously, to all of you colleagues with a very positive disposition because I think this time around we have a much better story to tell. We have a futuristic good story to put to the world. SA is renewing itself. SA is underpinned by a unity of action, a unity of purpose, and a unity in everything that we do. So, colleagues, let’s go to Davos. Let’s go and wow the world. Let’s go and tell the world how great our country is, and that we are open for business and we are there in Davos, to bring back lots and lots of Dollars for investments in our country. Thank you very much.

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