For this month’s Driver’s Seat I felt it was appropriate to begin with a quote from Coretta Scott King, the civil rights leader and wife of Martin Luther King Jr.
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
I have certainly never experienced the level of unprecedented unrest that wracked our country this month and left billions of Rands worth of damage and thousands of people without jobs. While we absolutely cannot condone these actions, the situation clearly turned out to be more complex and nuanced than any of us had initially understood. South African businesses, irrespective of ownership or location, suffered considerable losses. Thankfully most of our RMI members did not suffer any major damage or loss, but we nevertheless appreciate the disruption they experienced, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, with food and commodity shortages. We may, however, in the coming months face a challenge with illegal tyres and component parts finding their way back into the market. An urgent plea is therefore made to all automotive businesses not to accept any parts, components or tyres that do not have a slip to authenticate the purchase. This points strongly to compliance and the high standards which we uphold as an organisation.
Clem Sunter, the respected scenario planner and strategist, posted his views about the failed attempted coup saying that perhaps in an odd way this has been a necessary test of our democracy and the rule of law. I agree when he says that South Africa is a strange nation. We may argue and fight, but when pushed to the edge, we always tend to pull together for the common good. That is what I would like to request that all business owners continue doing. I have no doubt this too shall pass and that we will come out stronger on the other side.
As a sector, we do however require government support in order to grow and provide the employment that is so desperately needed. The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (dtic) recently issued their long-awaited revised Automotive Investment Scheme (AIS) guidelines. The revised AIS incentives have been designed with the objective of supporting the key targets and vision of the South African Automotive Masterplan (SAAM), to create a “globally competitive and transformed automotive industry”. While we fully support the objectives behind the incentive scheme for the manufacturing industry, we noted that the automotive retail sector, which contributes almost 3.5% of national GDP, was left out. The retail sector which is critically important to the economy, particularly the myriad of small businesses, would equally benefit from incentives to maintain a high level of compliance and uphold standards so we can continue to uplift the whole industry, grow and create jobs.
Government and other key stakeholders, in close liaison with the RMI, should be engaging in some alternate thinking to provide the necessary incentives to also sustain the automotive retail industry along the auto value chain.
As we celebrate National Women’s Day on 9 August, my final word goes to the ladies at the RMI and its membership base. Thank you to all our spectacular women for your incredible contribution and the value that you add to our sector.