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New deal ahead for economy

By Brendan Templeton, Business Report
19 May 2000

Johannesburg - A 'new deal' on South Africa`s economy would soon be hammered out by labour and government on one side and top business leaders on the other in a Codesa-style process to be finalised at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), Zwelinzima Vavi, the Cosatu general secretary, said yesterday.

The business leaders who would spearhead a major deadlock-breaking initiative with Cosatu were Nicky Oppenheimer, chairman of De Beers; Leslie Boyd, vice-chairman of Anglo American; Marinus Daling, chairman of Sanlam, Bokkie Botha, the Nedlac business convenor, and Christopher Kopke, the Mercedes Benz SA managing director, Vavi said.

It was envisaged that Cosatu and the government would act as partners to identify their common concerns in the Presidential Working Group, while other core economic issues would be thrashed out at the Millennium Labour Council, which would probably be co-chaired by Vavi and Boyd.

The final deals would be cemented at Nedlac and would transform the body from a mere talk shop into a "place where real deals are made".

Vavi said the government could not be a neutral party or a referee to the process as it had committed itself to job creation and getting the economy working for all.

Sources said today could be crunch time for the Nedlac process as well as a possible watershed in terms of injecting impetus into South Africa`s economy.

The South African Business Council and National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc) are expected to send senior representatives to the meeting.

But Vavi has warned that Cosatu would no longer abide negotiating with "clerks and junior officials".

Emergency meetings between the business councils resulted in Cosatu last week agreeing not to convert its 24-hour strike into rolling mass action and Vavi has warned that the seniority of the business representatives at today`s meeting would go a long way to determining how seriously business took Cosatu`s threats of more nationwide strikes.

The South African Federation is not expected to send senior representatives.

"We are convinced that Sacob seems to be quite serious about the need to find a solution, including a call for senior political decisions to be made between the real players," Vavi said.

Vavi said negotiations between top Cosatu officials and the Big Five business leaders had been going on for about a year and he was "convinced" about the businessmen`s commitment to the process.

"The breakthrough is that they recognise there`s a crisis.

"I`m confident of their personal commitment. It may be the differences are so big it frustrates the process, but that`s natural, particularly as we are antagonists in the economy. But its something which we have to go through."

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