Malusi Gigaba.   Picture: THE TIMES
Malusi Gigaba. Picture: THE TIMES

Business and the government are working together to repair their relationship, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Friday.

This comes after the surprise Cabinet reshuffle in March which angered business and prompted a rating agency downgrade of SA to junk status. According to the Bureau of Economic Research, business confidence is at the lowest level since the 2009 financial crisis.

At the first working session of the CEO initiative steering committee, co-chaired by Gigaba and held at the Treasury, he said the objective is to drive employment and growth and re-ignite confidence in the South African economy, and that several initiatives are on the table.

The government and business are still pushing the youth employment scheme with the aim of involving 1-million young people in the next three years through internship programmes. The partnership is also looking at revitalising manufacturing in the Vaal Triangle.

"This is so we can ensure we can lift the economy above the zero [point] something percent level," Gigaba said. He explained that a broader meeting with the CEO initiative will be convened by the president in due course and would touch on the 14-point confidence measures announced in July.

Gigaba said business was also concerned about the issues around Eskom and South African Airways. "Business Leadership SA (BLSA) has made it clear that we don’t have the luxury of time to resolve these issues ... and the creditability of government is on the line."

Chairman of the CEO initiative Jabu Mabuza said that in the aftermath of the Cabinet reshuffle and its impact on business and the government’s relationship, "we have been urged by all CEOs that this is our country and economy and we cannot boycott efforts to grow the economy".

Mabuza said business had complimented Gigaba on hiring a credible head at Treasury, for the removal of the chief financial officer at Eskom, along with addressing the anti-business rhetoric and for restraint in embarking on a nuclear programme. But he added that the economic cluster needs to have the same urgency and the president needs to appoint a committee to look into state capture, explaining that "there needs to be consequences for breaking the law".

Earlier in the week, big business — through BLSA — launched an initiative committing to curbing corruption in its own ranks, as well as growing and transforming the economy and creating jobs.

The initiative is an effort to assert business as a positive force in the life of SA, committed to SA’s future. As part of the "business believes" initiative, BLSA’s members have committed to a contract with the country, in terms of which they will create jobs by growing the economy; empower and encourage senior black leadership; invest in South Africans and communities; support small businesses; and condemn and root out corruption.

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