Johannesburg, 16 October 2017 – Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) President Michael Pimstein has bemoaned the slow pace of transformation in the metals and engineering sector and called on companies to embrace change in the best interest of the country.
Delivering his presidential address in Parktown on Friday morning, shortly after the Federation’s annual general meeting, Mr Pimstein said the slow pace of transformation in the sector continued to be a matter of concern, and urged companies “to embrace change and advocate for transformation”. He said that the manufacturing industry in general and the metals and engineering sector in particular were desperately in need of thorough-going transformation “not only when it comes to general business ownership, but also with regards to occupation of senior leadership.”
“As a sector, we need to embrace change and advocate transformation. Not only is it in South Africa’s interest for that to happen, but it is also fundamentally in business’s own long-term interest. It is of critical importance that a concerted effort is made by the sector towards creating meaningful opportunities for all South Africans to play a crucial role in taking our industry to new heights,” Mr Pimstein said.
He said that it reflected very poorly on South Africa that the country was placed number 165 out of 175 countries currently reflecting an economic growth rate better than zero. This growth rate, he said, was around the same position as that of the Republic of Congo, but significantly below rates experienced in Ethiopia (7,5%), Tanzania and Senegal (6,8%), Ghana (5,8%), Malawi and Mozambique (4,5%), Botswana (4,1%), Namibia and Egypt (3,5%) and even Zimbabwe (2%).
He said South Africa’s share of the global economy was declining year on year, with the country’s position aggravated by the fact that “our economic growth continues to weaken whilst the rest of the world’s is improving”.
Mr Pimstein said that business in South Africa operated in an environment challenged by weak economic conditions “and a radical disregard for good governance throughout the governing hierarchy.”
“Failure to respond to allegations of State capture and corruption, ineffective Boards and delinquent management, political (and other) appointees that disregard accountability, integrity and competence as non-negotiable elements of office, selective law enforcement, absence of a sound strategic plan to recover from junk status, inability and/or reluctance to eliminate wasteful expenditure by organs of the State, shocking audit revelations from the Auditor General, ill-considered regulatory impositions and attacks on independent institutions such as the South African Reserve Bank would be alarming if considered individually.
Together, they indicate contempt for good and responsible governance,” he said.
He said that it was time for business, labour, civil society, community bodies and
politicians to take South Africa country back: “Ultimately, we must recognise the
resilience, character and goodwill of most South Africans. Standing together against all
the evils permeating our activities would be a good start.”
Mr Pimstein said SEIFSA’s strategic role in influencing policy could not be underestimated. He said that it was important for all stakeholders within the sector to work together, with Government, business and labour partnering to find solutions to increase the country’s GDP significantly and, in the process, South Africa’s apparent steel consumption “beyond the moribund five million tons level”.
He said South Africa also needed to reposition for growth in key areas such as agriculture and agro-processing, mining and related beneficiation, manufacturing, urban development and rural infrastructure and development, water supply and storage, desalination and recovery, transport and logistics, as well as energy and tourism.
“We simply have to create decent jobs and, to sustain them, we have to grow oureconomic pie,” Mr Pimstein said.
Mr Pimstein welcomed the fact that the 2017 wage negotiations in the sector were concluded without any strike action, marking the fourth time in SEIFSA’s 74-year history that a three-year agreement was concluded with labour and “the first time in the last 10 years that this has been achieved without industrial action.”
Guest speaker JP Landman told the gathering how South Africa’s increase in population growth and a concomitant 1.23 percent increase in immigration had contributed to the decline in economic growth from 1.5 percent in 2014 to a possible 0,7 percent in 2017.
“I’ve seen this movie before. In 1985 South Africa faced similar economic challenges,” he said. “But despite the country’s economic and political woes, South Africa has an “open society that will enable it to make an about turn”.
Professor Landman said he remained optimistic about the country’s future because of a number of institutional and open-society forces in the country, such as the ability to replace the government, a free and pluralistic media, an independent judiciary and an outspoken civil society, among others.
“The bottom line for growth in South Africa would be a journey from traditionalism to modernism.To get onto this journey, the country needs to embrace the world by selling the world what it wants and taking what it can give you,“ he argued.
The Presidential Breakfast was preceded by a SEIFSA AGM, at which Industrial Services Holdings CEO Peter Amm, Auto Industrial Group CEO Andrea Moz and Zimco Group Human Resources Manager Ellen Veldhoven were elected onto the Board as Non-Executive Directors.
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