‘There is hope,’ says panel on South Africa’s recovery and reconstruction

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There is hope. South Africa can rebuild better and the way the public and private sectors have come together to fight Covid-19 proves it, said Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana.

He was part of a panel on Sunday, with Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter and lawyer Wim Trengove SC, speaking on hope and recovery at the biennial conference of the South Jewish Council of Deputies. Africans.

Hope, said Godongwana, rested in South Africa’s ability to develop the economy and build a common nation with a common understanding.

“The main challenge is recovery and reconstruction,” he said.

While there was consensus among all South Africans on this – the government had a document and so did the companies – what was missing was a common commitment to address this issue.

“The lesson from Covid-19 was that South Africans across the spectrum worked together without a plan. “

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Trengove said there was much to be hoped for in terms of maintaining and entrenching the rule of law, which only a decade ago came under sustained pressure from the government itself attacking the system. judicial.

“During the decade of state capture, the rule of law flourished,” he said, “thanks to the extraordinary leadership of the Constitutional Court and the presiding judge of the Gauteng High Court.

Unfortunately, these gains were reversed by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) which failed to nominate the best judges and hold errant judges to account, making irrational decisions and following a schedule that had nothing to do with it. the transformation.

“We’ve always had bad, brilliant judges, but recently there are too few brilliant judges appointed and too many less brilliant judges,” Trengove said, noting that companies are now choosing to settle disputes through private arbitration rather than take the risk of having a case decided in court.

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To uphold the rule of law, he said, judges must be courageous, which requires being confident and intelligent. The “quality impoverishment,” he said, was now spreading to the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court, and it would be the new chief justice’s most urgent challenge to reform the JSC .

De Ruyter admitted that Eskom was technically insolvent, defaulting its customers through load shedding, defaulting through its aging factory and through non-payment of its biggest customers, the municipalities.

“It’s hard to tell a story of hope, but from the ashes of what in 2000 was the world’s best public service can emerge new opportunities and the catalyst for economic growth. “

South Africa is a very large emitter of carbon and other pollutants with a very carbon intensive economy and would be disproportionately affected by climate change. But, said De Ruyter, the country also had the best wind and solar potential.

“Our worst area (solar and wind) is better than the best in Germany,” he said, who had already successfully switched to renewables.

The key was to align fiscal, environmental, industrial and economic policy to pivot towards a greener and cleaner future in a fair way, also reaching out to those with interests in the coal supply chain. , while ensuring that the communities surrounding coal-fired power plants do not become ghost towns, but become part of the green energy mix.

South Africa needs 4,000-6,000 MW of new generation capacity to support economic growth. Addressing this deficit, he said, would catalyze economic growth in itself. The utility will need to find 60 GW of new generation capacity by 2035 when at least half of its power plant fleet is retired.

“Our solution is not to fix that old car but rather to switch to a new one.” Natural gas and renewables would be the best option, he said.

READ ALSO : Municipal infrastructures “unable to cope” with power cuts – De Ruyter

When asked if South Africa was still a viable investment destination, Godongwana warned investors of the influence of “isolated incidents”.

“Crime prevention is going to be a top priority for the government,” he said, “watch this space”.

The biennial conference also took the opportunity to honor key members of the South African Jewish community.

Netcare CEO Dr Richard Friedland and Professor Wits and Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Board Chairman Barry Schoub both shared the most prestigious award – the Eric Samson Mendel Kaplan Award for a Lay Leader – for their service not only to South Africa at the forefront of the Covid-19 pandemic, but to the Jewish community itself.

The two men, the council said, had provided community leaders with vital information informing key decisions such as closing schools and shuls, while reassuring community members when they needed it most. .

Friedland accepted his award in honor of the hundreds of thousands of South African healthcare workers who had risked their lives over the past 18 months to save others, remembering the 75 members of his own company who had perished of the virus during this time.

“If we’ve learned anything during this time, it’s about humility, the sanctity of life and most of all, how we can’t afford to lose our own humanity. We take social distances (and we protect ourselves) but the challenge is to be kinder and more compassionate, ”he said.

The Kirsh family were honored with the Chief Rabbi Cyril and Ann Harris Award for their life of philanthropy to the South African community and society at large, but above all for their incredible generosity during the pandemic.

Shaun Zagnoev, the outgoing chairman of the board, was elected chairman of the SAJBD, replacing Mary Kluk, who had held the post for 10 years.

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