Speech by SEIFSA CEO Kaizer M. Nyatsumba, on the occasion of the official launch of RSC AVELO in Rooderpoort

08 December 2016

Programme Director; 

The Honourable Mr Lebogang Maile, Gauteng MEC for Economic Development;
Our Gracious Host, Mayleen Kyster, and the Management Team and Staff of RSC AVELO;
Members of the Fourth Estate present;
Honourable Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good morning.

It is a great pleasure for me to have this opportunity to say a few words to you on this wonderful occasion. 

Three years ago, South Africa and the world lost a very special man, the iconic and inimitable Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who had the singular – and richly deserved – honour of being the Founding President of A Democratic South Africa. From the moment his passing away was announced publicly on 6 December 2013, right until he was laid to rest on 15 December, the world joined South Africa in mourning his passing and in celebrating his life, the tremendous sacrifices that he made for his compatriots and the gargantuan achievements that he attained.

Throughout his life, Madiba stood for and cherished justice, freedom, fairness and equality. He actively championed – and personified – reconciliation and believed fervently in all that is good. He loved children so much that he nourished the dream of a hospital that would cater for them, and he believed in the innate capacity of all human beings, men and women, to confront head-on any challenges that they encountered and to go on to conquer. He believed that South Africans had it within them to go on to become the best that they could be in anything that they dared to undertake.

As we stand here this morning, Madiba would be immensely proud of one of South Africa’s daughters, Mayleen Kyster, who has defied all the odds historically stacked against her as a black person and as a woman. Madiba would look at her proudly, take her into his big arms and congratulate her on the official launch of AVELO, South Africa’s only black youth-woman-owned and managed reinforcing steel and reinforcement steel manufacturer.

As one who had the privilege of personally knowing Madiba, I am certain that he would rejoice at Mayleen’s business-mindedness, at her passion and at her success. I think that he would be filled with enormous pride and embrace her as a shining example worthy of emulation by our compatriots, young and old. I think that, looking at Mayleen’s physical and mental beauty, the ever-smiling, flirty Madiba would whisper, as he did to beautiful female journalists with whom I worked in those days, that he wished that age were still on his side!

Ladies and Gentlemen, the South Africa in which we live today is, in many ways, quite different from the country that Nelson Mandela wanted for us all. For a start, our economy has been seriously under-performing over the past few years, together with the global economy, and in recent months and years our leaders have managed to score some spectacular own goals that have cost us very dearly. Manufacturing’s contribution to our Gross Domestic Product has continued to shrink by about 1% per decade and our own metals and engineering sector has continued to take a beating. In the process, tens of thousands of jobs have been lost.

All the data available to us indicate that 2015/16 has been the worst year in recent years for the metals and engineering sector. Among our challenges have been ever-growing imports of just about everything that we manufacture in this country, relatively higher input costs when compared to our Asian competitors, high administered costs and much higher logistics costs when compared to other exporting economies.

Since our sector is primarily a supplier to the mining, construction and auto manufacturing sectors, inevitably it is affected by lacklustre performance of any one of those three sectors. We have felt most acutely the slowdown in the global commodities trade and, after the highs of the pre-2010 FIFA World Cup that we had the privilege to host in this country, the slowdown in construction. We can only hope that what currently looks like a gradual return to decent performance by the mining sector will last and get even better.

Since the beginning of 2016, most economically literate South Africans have worried deeply about the possibility of a sovereign credit rating downgrade to junk status and the devastating impact that would have had on our ailing economy. As we get ready to bid 2016 farewell, we do so with a great sense of relief that we have twice successfully avoided such downgrades, thanks to the Herculean efforts of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his team in the Treasury, who have meaningfully reached out to the business community and organized labour to form a strong partnership.

Long may such a partnership continue. We cannot but wish that others in Government, including in our provincial administrations, would emulate Minister Gordhan by adopting a similar posture to business and labour, instead of repeatedly and monotonously referring to business – which creates jobs and pays corporate taxes – as though it were an enemy.

Honourable Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Mayleen Kyster’s entrepreneurial spirit has seen her leaving a comfortable job with a big company in the sector to take on the risk of raising capital to venture into the brave world of business ownership. She has done so in an industry that is not known for transformation and that is not renowned for its friendliness or accommodativeness to women. Within a relatively short space of time, she has made her presence felt by winning the Most Transformed Company Award in the 2015 SEIFSA Awards for Excellence and by being invited to be one of the speakers at the inaugural Southern African Metals and Engineering Indaba in 2015.

As we all know, the South African economy desperately needs to be transformed. Those who say that there is a great need for our political transformation to be followed by a thorough-going, radical transformation of our economy have a very valid point. Unless all South Africans can feel that they have a legitimate stake in our economy, our beautiful country will not know the true meaning of stability.

Therefore, we welcome the Department of Trade and Industry’s Black Industrialists initiative and the Department of Small Business Development’s Gazelles initiative. For both those programmes, Mayleen Kyster and her partners at RSC AVELO are richly deserving of serious consideration.

Congratulations, Mayleen. May you and the RSC AVELO team grow from strength to strength. We wish you everything of the best – and we are immensely proud to count your company among the members of the progressive Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa.