Call for Codesa Accord

KETSO Gordhan, CEO of PPC, South Africa’s largest cement producer, on Monday called for the government and private sector to hold talks at a new “Codesa” to get the country’s stalled infrastructure building programme back on track.
Mr Gordhan, who is influential in both government and industry circles, said a Codesa would be a “critical step to kick-start implementation of much-needed infrastructure development in South Africa”.
“It is clear that infrastructure bottlenecks by both the public and private sectors need to be addressed, not through agreeing to generic accords but rather through implementable plans with clear roles, responsibilities and deadlines,” he said.
The Codesa model is often touted as a practical forum to bring together stakeholders in negotiations, after the success of the initial Convention for a Democratic South Africa convened in Kempton Park in December 1991, ahead of the multiparty talks that led to the country’s transition from apartheid to democracy in 1994.
Since last year, the government has repeatedly committed itself to spending billions on new infrastructure, as the centrepiece of its economic growth efforts. The plan has been to spend about R1-trillion on infrastructure from last year to 2020.
Mr Gordhan has strong political credentials and has served in a number of senior public sector roles, among them as director-general of the Department of Transport and city manager of Johannesburg. He is also a nephew of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Before joining PPC in January, he developed performance metrics and targets for state ministries.
The private sector, while lauding the commitment to upgrading infrastructure, has repeatedly complained that the roll-out has been too slow.
Referring to the “infrastructure Codesa”, Mr Gordhan said: “Moves like this are where we can make the most significant impact on our global competitiveness as a country. We continue to score poorly in the World Economic Forum’s global competitive index.
“We have to come to terms with the fact that we cannot boost the competitiveness of our economy, boost sustainable infrastructure growth and boost job creation by doing more than agreeing to the ideals of a plan.”
The director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Steven Friedman, said the Codesa needed to be fully understood or the infrastructure version would fail. “It depends what he means.
“Most people who call for a Codesa now seem to see it as a three-day meeting which issues a declaration. That is a waste of everyone’s time.
“The actual Codesa lasted three years with various setbacks and interruptions. If that is what he has in mind, it could work.”
Mr Friedman said for infrastructure to go through such an intense negotiation process there would have to be severe differences between the parties involved.
“I would not have thought that infrastructure was an issue which prompted divides of that sort, although there are obvious differences on who should pay.”
Stanlib industrial analyst Anashrin Pillay said he had seen some infrastructure uptake this year but it had been focused on acquiring machinery and not bricks-and-mortar upgrades. “The spend is really with state-owned entities at the moment. They have, however, not spent as much as they would have wanted to because of strikes. Eskom has done most of the spending and had strikes at its Medupi power station, for example.
“Transnet has been buying rolling stock and only in two to three years do I see them upgrading port infrastructure. Sanral has been spending a solid R13bn a year, however.”
The Codesa would need to address procurement fine-tuning, better payment timing and curbing corruption, Mr Pillay said.

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