Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Reflections on the election and my legacy of five years as Shadow Minister of Small Business Development

Over three months have passed since the election and the end of my five year term in Parliament. I had hoped to return for another five year term but the party had other ideas.

After the DA's poor electoral performance, in which its share of the vote dropped and the Parliamentary caucus went from 89 to 84, a three-man review panel was set up to look into the reasons why and what reforms the party should consider to bring it back to a growth path. So far, there has been zero accountability in the senior echelons of the party, with the exception of the resignation of Jonathan Moakes, the campaign director and former CEO. Instead, the leadership have taken "collective responsibility" for the first drop in the DA's national vote since 1994 - language which we associated with the ANC, not the DA, where personal accountability has always trumped the collective. Not any more, it seems.

Along with over 200 others, I sent a written submission to the panel in which I shared my thoughts on where the DA went wrong, not just in the election but in its overall strategy and positions on things such as race and BEE. The panel's recommendations are to be considered at the October meeting of the Federal Council (of which I am not a member). The question is, will they be redacted or will members have an opportunity to consider an unvarnished assessment which could lead to calls for resignations at senior levels in the party. 

James Selfe has indicated his intention to retire as Chairman of Federal Council and Fedex, having already moved to a new role heading up Governance with oversight of DA governments in the one province and several municipalities which it runs. There is talk of a proposal to merge the roles Selfe held with that of Federal Chairperson currently held by Athol Trollip, but this would require a vote by Federal Congress which is only due to sit in 2021. However, if, as has been floated, Mmusi Maimane resigns as Leader following what is likely to be a damning report by the review panel, an extraordinary Congress would be called where leadership elections would be held, throwing up the possibility of resolutions to alter the leadership structure. Perhaps Maimane has been reflecting on his future during a private preaching tour to Australia from where he has just returned to tackle the growing row over the government's National Health Insurance bill.

Over the past few months, I have kept myself occupied with a number of interesting projects and opportunities, which I expect to be writing about in the coming weeks and months.

I have noted with interest the generally positive reaction to the new Minister of Small Business Development’s budget speech delivered in Parliament last month. Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni was quick out of the starting blocks with a raft of policy announcements. Which is not surprising, because she had them ready-made on a plate generously donated to her by the DA.

These include: 
  • a blended finance model for SMEs, which the DA first recommended in June 2015 - see here
  • a plan for cutting red tape, detailed in the DA’s Red Tape Impact Assessment Bill tabled in October 2016 and rejected by the ANC in May 2017 - see here
  • establishing an SME ombudsman to resolve disputes faster and cheaper, provided for in the DA’s Small Enterprises Ombud Service Bill tabled in May 2018 and rejected by the ANC in October 2018 - see here
  • raising the red flag over late payment of supplier invoices by both government and the private sector, and implementing the proposals of a DA White Paper on late payments published in February 2018 - see here
  • the creation of a one-stop-shop for SME support, and streamlining the services provided by the department’s financial and non-financial agencies, which the DA has advocated since the department was formed in 2014 - see here; and,
  • the formation of a national venture capital fund first proposed in the DA’s 2014 election manifesto and which will now be used to finance 100 000 youth-owned businesses - see here.

It’s gratifying that our hard work during the 5th Parliament is now being recognised, even though the ANC is taking all the credit. If they’d refused to play politics originally we would be that much further down the road in creating a supportive SME ecosystem.

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