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Ebrahim Patel. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Ebrahim Patel. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Peter Bruce's recent column refers (“With a leftie in charge of capitalism, things are getting hairy”, September 1). The use of the Competition Commission to exert control over business is an arrogant abuse of power that is not trade, industry & competition minister Ebrahim Patel’s function, nor that of the commission.

In any event, where did Patel obtain the knowledge and ability to run any business, never mind the entire sector? He does this via diktat, questionable master plans and tariff imposition, which is inflationary, counterproductive and job destroying.

All this forms part of his localisation plan. Forty-two industries have been selected by faceless “officials” (cadres?) to undergo this imaginary  transformation into fine examples of business excellence. In return for his support, he wrings concessions out of these industries. It is a well-known fact in the marketplace that there are some very unhappy master plan signatories who feel exploited.

As regards the commission, the interference in the proposed private equity sale of Burger King was a perfect example of commercial insanity. Then there is control of the Industrial Development Corporation, which has resulted in it bleeding huge losses.

On the tariff side of things, the International Trade Administration Commission (Itac) has become a loose cannon, abusing rules, regulations and processes. Suddenly huge tariff increases are the order of the day, even when the applications are obviously defective.

Trade agreements are overridden, and our credibility with trading partners is at its lowest point ever. Surely there is no pressure on Itac to raise tariffs? Coincidentally, in the same newspaper as Bruce’s column arguably the country’s top international trade expert, Donald MacKay, tore the flawed   implementation of the new African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to shreds, producing indisputable facts and so reaching the logical conclusion that, as things now stand, SA’s impulsive and thoughtless conduct has rendered the agreement totally unworkable (“How SA has shot itself in the foot with trade precedent”, September 1).

This has recklessly harmed our SA Customs Union neighbours “causing a catastrophic failure of some of their clothing factories”. The result of all this megalomania is that  master plans are a mess, the Competition Commission abuses its powers, and the AfCFTA is in chaos.

This is, as Bruce so eloquently points out, the danger of putting communists in charge of capitalism. The minister in charge comes from the same party that has wrecked all state-owned enterprises, most of the country’s municipalities and is itself bankrupt and unable to pay its own staff.

You simply couldn’t make this up. SA will pay a heavy price once again for unnecessary interference from an incompetent state.

David Wolpert

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