Johannesburg, 20 September 2018 – Delegates attending the 4th Southern African Metals and Engineering Indaba organised by the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) at the IDC Conference Centre in Sandton firmly resolved to express their bitter disappointment at the inability of some high-ranking government officials to attend important and relevant sessions.
The delegates said these sessions presented a unique opportunity for the various individuals to interact with members of the community, labour and academia and preeminent researchers to get direct insights into challenges facing the economy.
An invitation was extended to both Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to attend the sessions on working together to improve South Africa’s Sovereign Credit Rating and a reflection on what needs to be done to end or contain public corruption and corporate malfeasance in South Africa. Both Ministers declined the invitation.
Conference delegates also expressed concern that Eskom Group Chief Executive Phakamani Hadebe – who also declined the invitation – had missed an opportunity to engage robustly and frankly with the delegates in search of solutions on how administered prices can be better managed to make South Africa competitive as an international exporter.
The sessions went on with Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) CEO Tanya Cohen, Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse Executive Director Wayne Duvenage and a senior Transnet executive who stood in for CEO Siyabonga Gama.
However, all delegates resolved to explicitly articulate their disappointment with the failure by the Ministers and the CEO of Eskom, a strategically important power utility company to be part of the conference.
One of the delegates proposed that the joint position be made known. Accordingly, the conference adopted a resolution saying: “We are very disappointed that Ministers of two key government portfolios – namely Finance and Public Enterprises – which are important in strategically providing certainty and attracting investments in the private sector could not attend to gain an intrinsic understanding of the challenges faced by businesses.
“We are also concerned that Mr Hadebe could not avail himself to shed more light to stakeholders from business and labour communities on some of the challenges facing the entity and its efforts to contain ballooning operational costs,” the resolution said.
Master Builders South Africa Executive Director Roy Mnisi – who was one of the speakers at the Indaba – resoundingly supported the resolution, informing delegates that the construction industry also had its annual conference in the Eastern Cape over two days last week and “we could not get a single Government Minister or even the Director-General to attend our conference,” the resolution adopted by the delegates said.
The Indaba also passed a resolution expressing gratitude and appreciation to Minister in the Presidency Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for her attendance of the conference. Dr Dlamini-Zuma was the main speaker in the session dealing with the National Development Plan.
The resolution unanimously passed by the delegates echoes concerns raised by SEIFSA CEO Kaizer Nyatsumba when he made introductory remarks in the morning when he said: “While we have deeply appreciated the involvement of Former President Kgalema Motlanthe, then-ANC Treasurer-General Dr Zweli Mkhize, Ministers Mildred Oliphant, Pravin Gordhan, Lindiwe Zulu, Ebrahim Patel and, this year, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, hitherto we have struggled to get the President of the country, the Deputy President of the country, the Minister of Trade and Industry, other key Ministers, the Gauteng Provincial Government and the Cities of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni to show the metals and engineering sector the respect worthy of them by participating in this conference.”
He added that while the business community welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s commitment, during his inaugural State of the Nation Address in February, that the Government will place an emphasis on manufacturing, business was deeply concerned that a higher level of commitment to the metals and engineering sector from the Department of Trade and Industry and other parts of his Government (including the Presidency itself) was yet to be seen.
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