The presidency has called on major companies to postpone planned layoffs in a bid to address growing concerns over looming retrenchments in South Africa’s business sector, emphasizing the importance of staying committed to the energy action plan and logistics turnaround strategy. The government asserts that measurable progress is on the horizon.

Rudi Dicks, the head of the project management office in the presidency, urged businesses to prioritize consistency, emphasizing that a stable and clear path forward is essential for economic recovery. “We have a plan. We need consistency, which will allow for stability and a clear way forward. We don’t need to chop and change. Business has partnered with government, and we urge business to stay the course,” stated Dicks.

Major players in the business sector, including Arcelor Mittal and Sibanye-Stillwater, have recently announced plans to lay off thousands of workers, citing both domestic issues and international factors. Despite these challenges, organized business and the government reached an agreement last June to collaborate on critical areas such as energy, logistics, and crime, aiming to turn around the country’s economy.

Dicks addressed concerns about the potential decline in economic activity, stating, “If it is the prediction that economic activity is to decline further, what we have to do is convince the market that the plan [on logistics and energy] is credible and will be implemented quickly.”

Senior economist Iraj Abedien highlighted the importance of timely macroeconomic decisions, especially regarding state-owned entities such as Eskom and Transnet. Abedien expressed regret that essential actions were often taken too late, leading to devastating consequences for the economy.

“There is a lack of political courage to do things at the right time. We do this too late, when there is no other choice, and that has been devastating to the economy,” Abedien remarked.

Critics, including Abedien, pointed out a perceived delay in crucial decisions, stating that President Cyril Ramaphosa tends to act only after the damage has been done. This approach, they argue, has deepened the trust deficit during his administration.

The collaboration between the government and businesses becomes increasingly crucial as South Africa faces economic challenges and potential job losses. The success of the joint efforts in addressing energy, logistics, and crime is seen as a key factor in steering the country toward a more robust economic trajectory.