South Africa’s government and private sector need a clear agreement on their collective responsibility in bringing an end to the trend of working in silos and “talking past each other”, nonprofit property development organisation Western Cape Property Development Forum (WCPDF) chairperson Deon van Zyl has said.
Speaking during the opening of the WCPDF’s yearly conference on May 20 – this year’s theme was Vision for Growth – he said it was important to create capacity, a culture and a budget that are vision-driven, aspects that should be “front-of-mind for any business or public sector leader in South Africa right now”.
However, Van Zyl noted that the term “vision” too often received only lip service and that, although some people talk about vision, they nonetheless continue with their business as usual.
“That just confirms that our vision for our country is either not defined in simple terms, or if there is a vision, it is not subscribed to by everybody,” he said.
But, even if there was a vision, Van Zyl said South Africa did not have a practical implementation strategy to drive it.
Further, he noted that even if South Africa had a vision and an implementation strategy, government and the private sector were not measuring it and reporting on progress in such a way that makes the case for investment by the private sector.
“. . . we are failing on all counts. We do not have a vision that is clearly defined; we have yet to come together to subscribe to a single vision for the future of our economy; and we have not put in place the measurements to actively manage the achievement of a vision, even if one did in fact exist,” stated Van Zyl.
He explained that he was no longer convinced that the term “rainbow nation” was strong enough to set the course for South Africa and its economy; but that instead, the country needs to get its hands dirty and start the debate on what is going on, what the country’s vision is and what needs to be put in place to achieve that vision.
As such, Van Zyl said the conference was aimed at highlighting that agreement is needed to define South Africa’s growth vision, and that agreement was also required on the hard work that needs to be done to achieve that vision.
He averred that agreeing with and committing to a single growth vision was no longer negotiable, but a necessity.
Meanwhile, Van Zyl said South Africa’s core problem was that various role-players “speak past each other” when they try to communicate, explaining that three distinct sectors exist that have been structured in a triangular relationship.
The three corners of this relationship are politicians, bureaucracy and the private business sector, he said.
“You would agree that these are three distinctly different worlds speaking three distinct languages. Politicians speak politics; bureaucrats speak legislation and policy; and the private sector speaks profit, unfortunately often at any cost,” he stated.
To unite these worlds and direct them in the same direction would require a shared vision – one that speaks all three different languages and one that puts South Africans first.
As such, he said, the conference aimed to find agreement that politicians, bureaucrats and those in the private sector have been talking past each other for far too long, and that if these three parties do not get their act together, South Africans will be “left in the dust of other dynamic African countries”.
Van Zyl also said that the fixed-capital investment industry could lead the way on illustrating how the three worlds, and the critically important world of labour, could build a better future if they were able to agree on what that future should be.