Be careful what you wish for...
For decades big business hoped for a weakening of the tripart ite a l l i ance. The ANC/ COSATU/SACP coalition was seen as damaging to business. Now that the alliance is fraying at the edges – many are wondering whether or not the status quo was more palatable than the heightened levels of political and economic uncertainty with which managers are contending on a daily basis.
It really is a case of being careful what you wish for.
Both Government and big business have been taken unawares by the rapid radicalisation of the workforce particularly in the platinum belt, and the state is stretched to deal with the rapid rise in violent service delivery protests. For ever watchful ratings agencies, concerned about the sustainability of a South African turnaround without the economy finding innovative ways to include growing numbers of disaffected young people, the rise in activism cannot be ignored.
A dramatic change in political climate following the May elections could force the hand of the state and that of big business to greater levels of co-operation in the face of a leftwing backlash. Finance minister Pravin Gordhan is a strong proponent of greater co-operation between public and private sectors.
But the ANC is vulnerable to a backlash from first-time voters, who believe that they have little to lose in voting for what they might regard as a radical alternative. Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is shaking up the political landscape and is likely to get more than a handful of seats in parliament. That would provide the EFF with a level of political credibility that it craves to achieve and will do one of two things – lead to greater sustainable co-operation between public and private sectors, or a kneejerk jump to the left of traditional ANC policy to placate voters.
So far the state has remained resolute and focussed on prudent long-term financial planning. Gordhan may have got away with a couple of percentage points on the marginal tax rate if he’d chosen to follow a populist agenda. But with just 168 000 South Africans earning over R1m a year, the impact could have been more negative from a compliance point of view than positive.
For now sceptical ratings agencies are giving the finance minister the benefit of the doubt.
In as much as big business was hoping for a breakdown in the tripartite alliance, the EFF and its supporters are eager to plunder the coffers of the rich. They, too, should also be careful about what they wish for. The super rich are globally wealthy and although it might pain them to do so, they are able to pack their bags and take their money generating ingenuity with them.