Tough choices await Ramaphosa, says new BLSA head

Business Leadership South Africa CEO Busisiwe Mavuso
Business Leadership South Africa CEO Busisiwe Mavuso

Newly appointed Business Leadership South Africa CEO Busisiwe Mavuso told Fin24 on Tuesday that unpopular decisions would be required of President Cyril Ramaphosa as the head of the African National Congress-led government.

This would be for the ultimate good of the country, she said. 

Mavuso – who officially succeeded Bonang Mohale as the CEO of BLSA at the beginning of this month – spoke to Fin24 about her appointment. BLSA is an organisation of CEOs from private and listed companies established in 1960.

Mavuso acknowledged that South Africa's economy has consistently under-performed for over a decade and that unemployment and inequality continued to undermine the seven goals Ramaphosa highlighted in his State of The Nation Address last month.

Economic policy as a battlefield

Speaking to Fin24, Mavuso argued that for years there had been perceptions that the economic policy of South Africa was a battlefield for warring factions in the ANC, and that this worsened policy uncertainty in the country.

This came to the fore in remarks by ANC heavyweights on the ownership and mandate of the South African Reserve Bank.

"The issues that South Africa faces are bigger than the ANC. This is not about one party, but 57 million people. This is about more than 55% youth unemployment and 53% poverty levels and the fact that we have overtaken Brazil as the most unequal society in the world," said Mavuso.

Mavuso said organised business was largely of the view that even though Ramaphosa had the right intentions when it came to the economy, the risk remained that he may be hamstrung in terms of his ability to bring the changes business needs.

'Sinking ship'

"This ship is unfortunately sinking and we need to make hard choices to ensure that the ship stays afloat. It is disheartening when the ANC alliance self-mutilates the way that it does and behaves as if its internal battles are more important than the future of South Africa," Mavuso said.

Regarding the fate of Eskom, Mavuso said Ramaphosa would have to stand up to his peers in the ANC and the party's labour federation allies if he was to rescue the ailing power utility, which international observers have highlighted as South Africa's greatest economic risk.

"Something is going to have to change. Labour cannot continue to ask for 11% increases in this climate. It is untenable. For efficiencies to be optimised at Eskom, the unbundling must happen," she said.

She said under her leadership, BLSA should "continue on the trajectory" which it embarked upon when it signed its social contract in Alexandra in 2016. She said BLSA should maintain the view that problems government experiences are not solely government's problems to solve.
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