Cyril Ramaphosa at the state of the nation address 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/ BRENTON GEACH
Cyril Ramaphosa at the state of the nation address 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/ BRENTON GEACH

Business Unity SA (Busa) has given the thumbs up for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address (sona), endorsing his emphasis on economic growth, job creation and the prioritisation of skills and education.

“We also appreciate the president’s establishment of a commission on the fourth industrial revolution,”  Busa president Sipho Pityana said in a statement on Friday.

Ramaphosa announced in his speech to a joint sitting of parliament on Thursday night that the presidential commission will comprise eminent persons from different sectors of society and will advise on digital transformation.

“The speech is unequivocal in sketching SA’s national priorities and unambiguous about its policy direction, as well as setting the country on the course to become a dynamic future-oriented economy,” Busa said.

However, it emphasised that implementation of the plans are necessary and that it will be crucial to hold cabinet to account on ineffectual delivery.  

Busa stated its belief that the economy is the foundation stone of creating a just and equitable society. “Creating a conducive investment environment by lowering the regulatory burden and ensuring policy certainty is key to increasing SA’s chances of reaching its investment goals and making sure that business plays its part as a social partner.”

Ramaphosa set the government the target of making SA one of the top 50 global performers in the ease of doing business, within the next three years. The World Bank’s annual “doing business” report currently ranks SA 82 out of 190 countries.

Busa said a fit-for-purpose education and skills system ensuring that SA was ready for the realities of the future of work; addressing poverty and inequality; dealing decisively with state capture and corruption; and ensuring the state has adequate capacity are all fundamental pillars that will help support an “optimal operating environment”.

The organisation welcomed Ramaphosa’s commitment to deal with corruption and the creation of a new law enforcement unit, which it said will go a long way in combating corruption and putting an end to looting.

Ramaphosa announced that an investigating directorate will be established in the office of the national director of public prosecutions to deal with serious corruption and associated offences.

Intellidex head of capital markets research Peter Attard Montalto said Ramaphosa’s speech “sent a positive and strong commitment to continue and accelerate the clean-up” of the country. He said that the splitting of Eskom into three entities — generation, transmission and distribution — did not go far enough and what is required is three independent companies.

“Eskom announcements were strong on intent but disappointed on specifics and give the impression more of kicking the can down a very long road than of action right now.”

Attard Montalto also highlighted the need for implementation of the commitments made in the speech. “The actual ability of the government to direct implementation internally on economic policy remains in serious doubt.

“Ramaphosa very much gave the speech expected of him — high on hope, long on promises and in full election mode. Fundamentally, there was absolutely nothing in the address to point towards anything concrete upfront that would lead to a need to revise up GDP forecasts in the short, medium or long run.”

Labour federation Cosatu noted that while Ramaphosa’s speech gave a correct assessment of what needed to be done and identified the urgent priorities facing the nation, “its proposals fall short of providing a radical departure from the current post-apartheid development trajectory”. 

Cosatu said in a statement, “We want to make it very clear that we will oppose any privatisation of strategic assets such as Eskom. We have a clear and unambiguous position on the issue of privatisation of state assets.”