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Janine Myburg - Cape Chamber Of Commerce And Industry AGM 2018

Almost five years ago, we did not fully realise the extent of the damage that was being done to our economy by corruption. The term "state capture" was not yet part of our everyday vocabulary.

It was clear that the state owned enterprises were in trouble, but it was only in the last two years that the full picture began to emerge. This being thanks to the "Gupta leaks", some outstanding investigative journalism and many SA hero's such as the likes of Vytjie Mentoor and many more.

This year alone, two commissions of inquiry have confirmed the shocking revelations and provided yet more information on the mafia like actions perpetrated during the Zuma years.

We have learned the true extent of the mismanagement of vital state owned enterprises such as the Eskom disaster which resulted in huge escalations in electricity tariffs. These destroyed one of our biggest competitive advantages in industry; cheap electricity. As if that's not enough, load shedding appears to be a distinct possibility in the month ahead; we had a taste thereof on Sunday.

Business is turning to rooftop solar panels as these provide cheaper electricity than we can buy from the municipality. The costs thereof are predictable. This enables business to control its energy spending, making it easier to plan and decide on new investments.

For the Western Cape this has not been entirely a bad thing. For years we have relied on the long power lines from the north to supplement what we get from Koeberg.

This will open opportunities for small and large businesses who specialise in distributed generation and roof-top solar. Of wider economic importance is that this new degree of selfsufficiency will mean that we
will "export" less money to Eskom in Johannesburg and we will have more to invest in the local economy and create much needed new employment.

Unfortunately, every day that passes reveals new evidence as is presented to the Zondo commission and the Nugent inquiry.

To such an extent that even the interviews to select a new national director of public prosecutions produces more evidence of the decay in the public service.

Many of us believed that well paid public servants or officials are less likely to be corrupt than their underpaid counterparts.

We were wrong. Salaries that are way above market rates and excellent benefits seem to have the opposite effect, they make people greedy.

As the clean-up gets underway, my fervent hope is that the judicial system will show little to no sympathy for the criminals who earned good salaries.

My hope is that the courts will dismiss any arguments for mitigation and give the severest possible sentence as an example for the next generation of public servants. Justice must be seen to be done.

Rebuilding a work ethic is perhaps our countries greatest challenge. Most alarming of all is that we have former cabinet ministers who don't seem to understand the gravity of their misdeeds.

If we look at expropriation without compensation we have had simple, logical arguments supported by tons of evidence, empirical data and thousands of submissions made but Parliaments Constitutional review committee voted to amend the constitution to make this possible. The devastating effect of this act on our economy will be damaging beyond comprehension.

Local issues
At a local level the two dominant issues have been the drought and the alarming state of public transport in the city.

The drought exposed a serious lack of planning on the part of both the National Government and the City Council.

At the Chamber we undertook two major surveys of our members which revealed the extent of the damage and destruction. We went further and held the H2Know Summit.

It was a success; with some excellent input provided by local entrepreneurs who see the water crises as an opportunity to get involved in long-term solutions to our water problems.

It helped to change the thinking of business when it comes to water and at least four companies have built their own seawater desalination plants while others turned problem basements springs into sources of water. Two whole complexes of buildings are being taken off the water grid to ensure we are better prepared to face a drier future.

The unsolved problem is the shocking state of the suburban rail service and the resulting congestion on our roads.

The numbers keep changing but Metrorail has lost in excess half of its train sets to vandalism and arson. The number of commuting journeys has declined by more than 30% with a corresponding decline in income and the ability to recover. The next big challenge we have is organised crime.

This has been a festering sore in Cape Town for many years, and when "hits" are carried out in broad daylight, outside a school, or as happened on many occasions that adults and children are killed in the gang cross fires, it becomes clear that the situation is way out of control.

It is also clear that sections of the security industry are now protection rackets run by competing mafias.

How did this come about?
One of the reasons is that we have been let down by the police but more particularly, police management.

We have many men and women in blue who are giving their utmost to our community. All too many have paid with their lives.

I was however, immensely disturbed to learn that Cape Town has only one policeman for every 560 people while the national average is one policeman for every 369 people.

I am however encouraged by the fact that the issue of gangs has at last been given the attention it deserves with the formation of an anti-gang unit.

The high cost of the public service has rightly been singled out as one of the country's biggest problems. The President has raised this as one of the issues he will be addressing.

If we look at local government, the Cape Town City Council has given us a decade of rates and tariff increases well above the inflation rate.

It is difficult to understand why when modern technology should actually reduce administration costs.

Instead we have seen the City's staff grow with salary increases consistently above the inflation rate while executive directors are now earning more than R3 million a year.

Something is desperately wrong, and we will be demanding answers in the coming year.

Business wants to and needs to play a big part in reviving the economy. The recent investment summit revealed that we are prepared to make the necessary investments despite the looming expropriation without compensation hanging over us.

There are also hopeful signs of a refreshingly new attitude to business with the President talking of partnerships and the Minister of Finance promising to demolish the wall between the public and private sectors.

This is essential because the dreams of a developmental state are in tatters, destroyed by bad management and corruption.

I firmly believe that the only hope lies in the private sector. The private sector that promotes staff on merit and who has managed to cultivate and retain essential skills sorely needed in our economy.

What we ask, as we have asked before, is less interference and unnecessary regulation on matters like property rights, mining rights, minimum wages, restrictive labour legislation, challenging visa regulations and for example a relook on the ban on high cube shipping containers which convey most of our agricultural exports to the global markets.

The aim of government should be that of creating an enabling environment and not a restrictive environment as is often the case.

I have every confidence that the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry and its members will rise to the challenge when required.

President & Chairperson Janine Myburg's AGM address (edited)

 Janine Myburg Cape Chamber Of Commerce And Industry AGM 2018.GIF
 Janine Myburg Cape Chamber Of Commerce And Industry AGM 2018.pdf

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