Carol Paton Writer at Large
Sipho Pityana. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI
Sipho Pityana. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI

South Africans have run out of patience with both politicians and business, and this could trigger populism that will reverse democracy, Business Unity SA president Sipho Pityana said at the organisation’s economic indaba, in Midrand on Wednesday.

Busa is holding “a dialogue” with business and the government to discuss strategies to reboot the economy.

Pityana, who is also chair of AngloGold Ashanti and a former director-general in government, called on business to form a genuine social partner so that SA could prosper and avoid political disaster.

“Our country needs a new framework for growth. Given the waves of discontent pulsing through our country, exemplified through violent service delivery protests, it is clear that a substantial part of our society has, understandably, become embittered not only with the excesses in our political system, but also with those who hold economic power,” Pityana said.

“If unchecked, this rumbling resentment and the feeling of despair could trigger populism that may reverse all our democratic gains.”

Inequality has become an economic risk and business needed to “clearly define its role contribution to our economic repositioning, and for our nation’s success”, he said.

Government and business need to sit and down talk — not just about business contracts — but about a social contract to deliver economic justice, Pityana said. 

Co-operative government and traditional affairs minister Zweli Mkhize said in the forum that “inequality was both a political and an economic risk”. 

“Inequality is biting in the townships and the villages. Unless big business invests in townships, we will not be able to go forward,” said Mkhize. 

The dialogue will also hear from business about plans to grow sectors of the economy and how the government could contribute to growth and job creation.

Under the auspices of the public private growth initiative – led by Gordon Institute of Business Science professor Nick Binedell, former constitutional negotiator Roelf Meyer and Johan van Zyl, the CEO of Toyota Europe — 22 sectors have been involved in formulating five-year plans.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and cabinet ministers in economic portfolios will later hold a dialogue with Busa. 

patonc@businesslive.co.za