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Johann Rupert. Picture: BLOOMBERG/ALBERTO BERNASCONI
Johann Rupert. Picture: BLOOMBERG/ALBERTO BERNASCONI

Richemont chair Johann Rupert succinctly captures SA’s predicament: “You cannot nationalise a person’s brains. And it’s instantly movable.” (“Johann Rupert: money goes where it is welcome”, December 5).

He also rightly casts a spotlight on the flagging fortunes of the social contract between business, labour and government, which President Cyril Ramaphosa promised in his 2022 state of the nation address.

Where I would encourage Rupert to reassess is when he says “We as business, we are powerless. It has to be the whole society that must get together.” The skills and financial constraints on state action are mounting. Departments delay (in some cases they do not function) and state-owned entities cover the gambit from the destructive (Eskom and Transnet) to the merely ineffective.

Our latest polling provides a snapshot of the mind of the voter: support for the ANC is under 50%, and the majority of people’s priorities are consistently unemployment and crime. These factors coalesce in a scenario where SA enters an era of coalition government (most assuredly on a provincial level, and possibly at national level too). While undoubtedly bringing uncertainty and anxiety as the central position the ANC occupied becomes more frayed, gaps will open up for new ideas, solutions, plans and investments.

In its engagements with the state, business must become more transactional, requiring policy reforms and concessions along the way. Should there be a desire among those who occupy the bureaucratic corridors to reform the state and remain relevant, they must push through reforms that, while painful in the short term for some interest groups, will place the country on a better path over the long term.

Business can take the lead in reform plans, working with labour (where possible), and especially with civil society. But it is vital that alternative solutions and plans be explored and built. The opportunity of 2024 is too great for the status quo of economic and societal decline to be allowed to persist.

Chris Hattingh
Centre for Risk Analysis

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