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Better assessment needed to overcome future crises – BLSA


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Better assessment needed to overcome future crises – BLSA

13th June 2022

By: Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer


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In responding to crises on local soil, South Africa needs to ensure all collaborators have sufficient capacity to engage and plan for joint action, says Business Leadership South Africa CEO Busi Mavuso.

She says South Africa has responded well to some of the recent crises it has been presented with, with the Covid-19 pandemic perhaps the most severe, demonstrating South Africans pulling together, particularly government and business.

The Solidarity Fund, Mavuso points out, brought together people from public and private sectors, government and business, to rapidly raise funds to fight the pandemic and deploy them most effectively.


“Business, through a rapidly assembled voluntary forum – Business for South Africa, mobilised resources from the private sector and worked extensively with the Department of Health to support the vaccine rollout and much else.

“This worked because of the positive response and willingness to partner from government – it was a true partnership that brought the parties’ respective skills and resources together to ensure the most effective actions could be taken to confront the crisis,” she says.

However, Mavuso says South Africa's handling of the April floods in KwaZulu-Natal that claimed more than 400 lives, was problematic.


Particularly at local government level, there is often a lack of capacity to assess the impact of a disaster and then to determine what assistance is needed, she says. “That is both the assistance that business can offer, but also that central government can offer.”

“The unspent R1-billion emergency disaster relief fund that the National Treasury put aside following the floods is a case in point,” Mavuso highlights.

These funds remain unspent because Treasury has not received applications with the correct documentation from the provincial and municipal structures that need to spend the money, she says.

“This reflects the capacity problem. Local government structures are unable to assess the damage or plan for recovery,” says Mavuso.


She says businesses can work to rally resources and look to partner with government and civil society structures where resources from each are required.

However, on an increasing basis, there is less agreement on what is needed to address challenges.

“Through its operations and staff, business is on the ground and can directly assess damage and understand what interventions can be useful, but this is always limited to the areas in which businesses operate.

“Increasingly, resource support is needed for the first step, a comprehensive assessment of the damage and then a plan for repair and recovery that can be rapidly implemented,” says Mavuso.

As an example, in the case of the KwaZulu-Natal floods, estimates of the damage have differed dramatically, from R1-billion to R50-billion, she points out. “Such a range indicates that an agreed assessment of the damage does not yet exist, nor does the plan to repair the damage.”

Nonetheless, Mavuso says role-players should be aiming not just to repair the damage caused by the floods, but to improve resilience to climate change to be able to handle more frequent extreme weather. “There remains both immediate relief needed, with thousands still being accommodated in temporary structures, and then a longer-term plan.”

There is now a concerted effort to build momentum to collaborate to bring relief and rebuild what was destroyed as a result of the KwaZulu-Natal floods, she says. “We are determining how business can effectively support this. As is always the case, every disaster is unique and we learn new ways of engaging as we go.”

However, what does not change, says Mavuso, is the consistent willingness of organised business and the many other businesses that often collaborate to tackle specific problems working with partners.

Meanwhile, she also points out that South Africa is facing a grey listing by the international money laundering watchdog – the Financial Action Task Force, unless it meets stipulated requirements by October.

“Being placed on the grey list means businesses, as well as nongovernmental organisations, will have extra requirements to clarify sources of funding.”

This will batter South Africa’s reputation as it becomes known as a money laundering destination, says Mavuso. “Given our reputation for corruption, that will drive investors to look elsewhere. South Africa’s distressed economy cannot afford any extra burdens on businesses and further investment deterrents.”

In this regard, she says the National Development Plan: Vision for 2030 is a “brilliant” policy document. “It is credible because it is a purely evidence-based policy, free of any ideological influence.”

However, the failure to meet targets means South Africa should not scrap it, but that the National Planning Commission needs to go back to each part of the plan and set new, realistic targets.


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