SAFCEC CEO Address 78th Annual Presidential Gala Dinner
16 October 2017
Posted by: Steph Swanepoel
Speech by Webster Mfebe, CEO of the South African Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors (SAFCEC) on the occasion of its 78th Presidential Gala Dinner on 16 October 2017, Misty Hills Hotel and Conference Centre, Muldersdrift, Johannesburg.
Programme Director, Peter Ndoro;
Hon. Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa;
Hon. Minister of Sport and Recreation, Thulas Nxesi;
SAFCEC President and Council members;
Our event sponsor PPC; Presidents, Chairpersons and CEOs of other construction sector organizations;
Leaders of organized labour;
Leaders of political and governmental organizations; Distinguished guests;
Members of the media;
Ladies and gentlemen.
Honourable Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, on behalf of the South African Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors (SAFCEC), I wish to convey our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for accepting our invitation to deliver a keynote address at our 78th Presidential Gala Dinner. Given your rich background in labour and business, and your co-chairpersonship of the Constitutional Assembly that ushered in the new Constitution of a democratic South Africa, you represent the best hope for many South Africans, who thirst and hunger for your wisdom and leadership to resolve the major challenges currently facing our young democracy. We are therefore looking forward to your usual thought provoking input and response to some of the topical issues facing our country.
I also wish to congratulate our newly elected SAFCEC President and all the deserving recipients of the SAFCEC Awards. Honourable Minister Nxesi, thank you for your leadership, activism and support for the construction industry, especially when it mattered the most during your tenure as minister of Public Works. We also congratulate and wholeheartedly welcome our new minister of Public Works, Honourable Nkosinathi Nhleko, whom we have also invited but could not make it due to prior commitments. We hope that he will not reinvent the wheel, but instead continue to build upon the solid foundation already laid by his predecessor. The new minister's immediate task from the construction industry perspective, is to ensure that his colleague, the minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davis, promulgates, without any further delays, the Construction Sector Codes that were long agreed by all stakeholders in May 2016. This unnecessary and punitive delay confirms the hard reality of policy uncertainty, with ghastly consequences for business continuity and employment as some companies are rendered uncompetitive for public sector contracts, based on a generic scorecard.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have already dealt with hardcore industry issues at the SAFCEC Conference earlier today at which the Honourable Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, delivered a keynote address. Tonight, I am going to share with you my thoughts about the state of affairs in our country, openly, honesty and unequivocally.
Let me now reflect on the relationship between economics and politics. It is a well known fact that economics is concerned with studying and influencing the economy. Whereas politics is the theory and practice of influencing people through the exercise of power, e.g. governments, elections and political parties, etc. Economics could, theoretically, be regarded as non-political. However, politics influences the macroeconomic environment within which an economy can either thrive or dive. Therefore, there is a love and hate relationship between politics and economics, especially if one considers the dramatisize personae within those systems in the form of politicians and business people.
The effect of the interface between politics and economics is that the two systems can either compliment or corrupt each other as we are currently experiencing in our own country. The complementarity aspect manifests itself in the pursuit of a shared vision of nation building and prosperity for all, by both the public and private sector, within the context of constitutionalism; whereas the corruptibility aspect manifests itself, among other things, in the capture of the state in direct contravention and perversion of the principle of constitutionalism, thereby extinguishing the hope and trust the majority of South Africans have placed in their elected leaders.
It can only be uncivilized; crude; savage and brazen individuals, who plot, plunder and pillage state resources wantonly and unworthily, with unmitigated greed and cruelty, aided by a seemingly unfettered access to state secrets and power in a blatant conspiracy with those entrusted with the supreme responsibility to constitutionally protect the nation's resources and sovereignty. These people are not authentic entrepreneurs but genetically modified instant millionaires and billionaires, who have been planted, grown, fertilized and incubated within an elaborate and intricate system and network of patronage for the benefit of a few individuals, their friends and families. It is not only corruption of prodigious proportions, but an unpardonable act of high treason of the worst kind since the dawn of democracy in our country. It requires a pointed and unequivocal response, which is driven by an unadulterated honesty and openness. And to this end, the immediate establishment of an independent judicial commission of inquiry into state capture becomes more urgent every passing minute. The Gupta Leaks saga is a shame on South Africa, a country which, since the dawn of democracy in 1994, has been regarded as a beacon of hope not only by developing nations but by the developed and advanced economies. Sadly, notwithstanding the fact that everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is in a deepest slumber, apparently hobbled by an inexplicable debilitating disease.
The pole position which South Africa has held since 1994, among its counterparts in Africa and beyond, on moral and ethical leadership is running the risk of being metamorphosed into distant oblivion.
We need active citizenry that constantly calls for the silencing of the guns of corruption that are brutally murdering the economic prospects of our country and the socioeconomic upliftment of its people. The private sector must also shoulder the blame for corrupting the public sector. Sadly, the working class become pawns and casualties of a corrupt relationship between business and politicians as they lose their jobs and livelihoods, especially when the tap that has been watering corrupt activities has been tightly closed, thereby rendering these businesses unsustainable. In this regard, it is gratifying to see the private sector taking stern action against its own as evidenced by the collapse of Bell Portinger, and the dismissal of the top brass of KPMG, among others. However, the main question remains: what is the public sector effectively doing, to stem the tide?
The December 2017 ANC's 54th National Elective Conference must help resolve the leadership crisis in the country, before it precipitates into a constitutional crisis.We are told by some commentators including some within the ANC that the two current front runners, Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Zuma, who have availed themselves to contest the position of president of the ANC are leaders of two factions. And therefore, there must be a third way in order to unite the ANC. I personally totally reject the narrative of the existence of factions by virtue of followers democratically supporting their chosen leaders. In essence, factions exist because of political ideological differences within a political party and in this regard, the ideological differences are absent from all contenders to the throne. Here is why: Political ideologies have two dimensions: Goal - how society should be organized; Method - the most appropriate method to achieve this goal. All these candidates share the same ideological goal of how society should be organized: to create a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society. They also share the same ideology of the most appropriate method to achieve this goal: the mobilisation of motive forces to achieve it. The motive forces are defined as those who stand to gain from the achievement of the stated goal. In short, all these candidates subscribe to what the ANC calls the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). Therefore, as I have already stated, there are no factions in the ANC as democratic contestation cannot not simply be reduced into factionalism. The codification of Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Zuma as leaders of two factions is, in my view, a deliberate strategy to illegitimately disqualify and sequestrate them from the ANC presidential contest, which is the ANC pole position to be come the country's president. All presidential candidates might only differ in their articulation of challenges and critical policy priorities should they be elected president, but not on political ideology. Even policies themselves are periodically reviewed and set collectively at an ANC Policy Conference. And these are then translated into government policy affecting all citizens, which is why all South Africans including the business community should take a close interest in what is happening within the ANC. The ruling party are current leaders of society and when they cough badly, we all catch a junk status flu. Internal democracy and stability within the ANC, through respecting its own constitution, policies, culture, tradition, norms and standards, is critical in ensuring national stability and strengthening national democracy, rule of law and the nation's constitutional edifice. Therefore, the surest way to distinguish ANC presidential candidates is the caliber of the company they keep and the extent to which they, themselves, are known not for populist rhetoric, but for emphasizing the supremacy of the country's constitution as the only framework within which to channel party political conduct and all other conduct. In the light of all this, what exactly is the state of play?
What we see in the ANC today is the perversion of the objective of the creation of a prosperous society, whereby powerful individuals, who constitute an inner circle, are pushing a secret agenda of creating prosperous individuals and families, not a prosperous society as envisaged in the NDR. Simply put, the ANC seems to have been infiltrated and infested by some thugs who masquerade as leaders; who confuse leadership with dealership and therefore use state power and authority to cut deals for themselves, their friends and families. This sorry state of affairs has a negative impact on the economic prospects of our young democracy and we are already suffering, among others, the consequences of a junk status from two ratings agencies. Business confidence is very low and this, among other things, affects investor appetite to invest in the economy, the corollary of which is sluggish economic growth and low employment. If we are to be counted as thought leaders in business and society, we cannot keep our mouths shut when our economy is being dragged down the drain by, among others, policy uncertainty and fractious politics within the ruling party, and between itself and its alliance partners. Oftentimes, we are wrongly told to shut up and not to interfere in politics. Of course as business people we are not politicians, but we are part and parcel of the motive forces who stand to gain from the achievement of the objectives of the NDR, through the creation of a prosperous society as we are the ones responsible for growing the economy and job creation, provided that the macroeconomic environment created by governing politicians is conducive thereto. Besides, as business community, we are social partners with government, labour and civil society organisations, to ensure that together we advance the interests of our country and its people so that we do not degenerate into a failed state. And that our beloved country does not become a kakistocracy, which is a government by the least qualified and most unprincipled individuals, although some may argue that we are already there. Thankfully, in addition to the rising levels of civil societal consciousness and activism, we have a strong and independent judiciary that acts as a bulwark against any attempts to defile our nation's constitutional edifice.
Honorable deputy president, ladies and gentlemen, let me now share with you what I think are the triple challenges facing state institutions in South Africa today. These triple challenges are:
JUNIORISATION, MEDIOCRITISATION and CAPTURE of
State institutions. I also refer to them as the JMC Factor. They manifest themselves as follows:
JUNIORISATION: Appointment of individuals with no track record; marginalization of experienced and loyal individuals; inexplicable meteoric rise of new and unqualified individuals; condonation of gross insubordination to seniors by politically connected juniors.
MEDIOCRITISATION: Blatant, unmitigated celebration and worshipping of mediocrity: "if the rand falls, we simply pick it up mentality";
setting the bar at its lowest in terms of entry and performance; orchestrated purging and persecution of excellent and loyal performers;
lack of consequence management for glaring sub-standard performance;
defiant retention, recycling and/or promotion of poor performers;
willful dereliction of legal and/or constitutional responsibilities;
unwarranted defense of legal and/or constitutional breaches by certain powerful individuals;
grandiose denialism: failure to comprehend a crisis situation and lack of will and responsiveness to confront it head on;
conflicting, incoherent,confusing and uncoordinated, sporadic policy pronouncements;
low morale and skills flight of competent state employees; blatant disregard for the interests of those adversely affected by administrative decisions; undue and unwarranted interference in operational matters by oversight structures; capricious and unequal treatment of colleagues; wastage of state resources on deliberate and unnecessary duplication of effort;
unhinged and indiscriminate misappropriation and abuse of state
funds; gate-keeping at key institutions; arrogance of
arrogance of power; absentee leadership.
CAPTURE: Orchestrated purging and persecution of loyal and honest people; appointment of surrogates in strategic state institutions as proxies to conceive, facilitate and implement the state capture project; emergence of genetically modified instant millionaires and billionaires, who have been planted, grown, fertilized and incubated within an elaborate and intricate system and network of patronage for the benefit of a few individuals, their friends and families; deliberate weakening and paralysis of key state institutions; abuse of state institutions to fight personal and factional battles; subversion and perversion of established rules to benefit certain individuals and their interests; falsification and fabrication of public interest reports to incriminate and/or humiliate targeted individuals and organizations; blame game on white monopoly capital as a new "wit gevaar" (white danger), akin to the apartheid era "swart gevaar" (black danger), in order to divert attention away from daylight looting of state resources and high treason of the appropriation of state power to unelected and illegitimate individuals; turning of a blind eye by relevant authorities on glaring corruption and brazen daylight looting of state resources.
Honourable Deputy President and your entire leadership core in government, the ANC and alliance partners, please urgently attend to these triple challenges of juniorisation, mediocritisation and capture of state institutions, so that our country's pole position as a beacon of hope for the African continent and beyond, in terms of its ethical leadership in democracy and economy, is effectively restored. Please help our country not to slide into a kleptocratic kakistocracy. Please help all public officials understand the honour and responsibility of leadership and that it must not be confused with dealership, with the intention to cut deals for themselves, their friends and families. This will also help guarantee whether the ANC as the governing party redeems itself to its former glory or devours itself into distant oblivion.
In conclusion, one of the greatest leaders of all time, Mahatma Gandhi , once observed: "the world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed"
I thank you.