The business sector does not do its bit to build trust with the government, Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu has said.
The business sector knocks on government’s door only in a time of crisis because they fear they are going to lose money, she said.
This was her response to a sharply worded letter of criticism by Trevor Manuel, the former finance minister, which appeared in City Press yesterday.
In the letter, Manuel breaks his silence over President Jacob Zuma’s decision to sack Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and the subsequent controversy that ensued.
Manuel said the saga had shaken the confidence of business, voters and even the ANC.
His letter was addressed to Zulu following an interview with her by the Mail & Guardian in which she makes scathing remarks about the business sector and accuses the industry of refusing to give Zuma a chance. She is also quoted as accusing the business sector of forging a plot against Zuma, a comment she has subsequently denied.
In his letter Manuel asks Zulu to explain how trust can be restored after the debacle over the finance ministry.
“In my limited view, it is possible for autocrats to rule, but not for democrats to govern without the vital ingredient of trust,” he wrote.
Zulu yesterday hit back, saying she didn’t agree with his analysis that trust had been violated.
“I don’t agree. I completely don’t agree. I don’t even think trust has been broken in my view, because I don’t think it can be broken by one unfortunate event. Trust is something we must all build on collectively. One makes mistakes, but the mistake was corrected.”
“After making the decision he (Zuma) still thought it important to call relevant business and engage with them. That shows he has trust in them.”
On why Zuma fired Nene before consulting business, Zulu said: “There is a Constitution that enables the president to remove ministers from Cabinet.”
Zulu said the real problem is that there was no ongoing communication between government and the business sector. For this, she blamed the business sector.
“Trust is built through engagement and talking to each other. It does not mean we must talk to each other simply because there is a problem; it must be a continuous thing which in my view government has been doing.
“My view is that the ANC almost all the time tries to engage with business, but business engages only when they see a threat to their world. My point is they should make sure they always engage; not only now that there is a problem must they say we must rally around now that we are going to lose our money.”
Trust must be mutual and the business sector had a role to play in being part of the conversation to keep the relationship going, Zulu said.
“I am not saying government and business talking to each other would resolve everything. The problems we as a country are facing will always be there, but in order to remove the impact of a disaster it is always good to speak to each other consistently so we understand each other.”