Government leadership – and in particular the President himself – is under severe pressure to exercise bold leadership amidst a perfect storm of economic hardships that have weighed heavily across all sectors of society for several months. Excessive fuel price and electricity increases, coupled with loadshedding and general increases in taxation at local and national levels, are having crippling impacts on the ability of individuals, families and business to survive – let alone thrive – in South Africa. 

Leadership, in the context of galvanising a nation through challenging times, largely requires communication and transparency that provides clarity, assurance and hope. A rallying clarion call from the top has the power to motivate the national psyche and human energy to dig deep, strategize and strengthen our collective resolve to get through difficult times. However, unlike the short-lived “Thuma Mina” campaign when Cyril Ramaphosa came to power, we now desperately need more than a catchphrase or two – we need a solid plan of action, and we need it fast.  

On the back of several volumes of compelling state capture reports and all its recommendations, South Africans are desperately waiting for motivation to rise up in unity, to work for positive change and the greater good. But it can’t happen in a vacuum of transparency and clear communication of meaningful action plans. 

Whatever the journey towards a more transparent government requires, the path starts with an active citizenry on all fronts, including active corporate citizenry. The demand for transparency begins with people in positions of power within the public sector. Take for example, Minister Pravin Gordhan, who as minister of public enterprises oversees state-owned entities such as SAA, Denel and Eskom. Where is the transparency about the deal between SAA and Takatso? Why do we not have the full picture of Denel’s failure and what are the plans to address the power-outage crisis at Eskom? The situation across many fronts in just this one department is dire, and yet the public – who pay the bills for all these entities – are kept in the dark, nowadays more than often quite literally.

The same applies to Minister Mantashe and the energy sector. OUTA wants to know exactly what is happening at the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) that is causing the hold-up with applications for small scale solar plants that can help relieve the pressure on Eskom’s grid. And what’s the real reason behind the decision to try and push through a 20-year deal with Karpowership to provide “emergency” power for South Africa? 

OUTA’s mandate is to engage and expose this lack of transparency and we won’t stop asking the tough questions, even if we must do so in court. For these reasons, having tried through formal processes, OUTA often has to take legal action to compel the state to provide us with the information and explanations that led to various decisions and schemes they introduced. Be it the high tariffs charged on tolled roads, or why AARTO is being pushed onto society despite its unconstitutional and unworkable structures, or the irrational Karpowership decision, trying to tie us into a R220 billion deal over twenty years for what is supposed to be a short-term problem over the next two years.  

On the 1st and 2nd of July, OUTA and many organisations and leaders gathered at the ‘Defend our Democracy’ conference to discuss action that will increase pressure on Government that will hopefully lead to meaningful, positive change in South Africa.  We concluded that active citizenry at individual and corporate level is the only way to do this.   Through collective efforts and a united voice, we can push Government to move faster across the many fronts that require change.  We will be providing more feedback on this front in due course.

This month’s newsletter provides updates on, amongst others, our Karpowership court case, the AARTO matter, the elusive e-tolls decision as well as an opinion piece on the cost of cadre deployment.  

We know that times are tough, and therefore we are even more humbled by your support for our cause. Your donations make our work possible! And with individual tax season upon us, remember that donations to OUTA are now tax deductible up to a certain limit. Please see here for more details

Warm wishes, 

Wayne and the OUTA team.