SA's signals on Walmart 'puzzle investors'

Foreign investors are confused by conflicting messages from the government on the Walmart deal, says Gauteng economic development MEC Qedani Mahlangu. In May, the Competition Tribunal authorised Walmart to buy a 51% holding in Massmart , subject to the companies setting up a fund to assist local suppliers and manufacturers. Three Cabinet ministers are appealing against the approval, while Ms Mahlangu is in talks to access the companies’ enterprise fund. "We are saying different things at different times. We are not clear about what we want to do," Ms Mahlangu said yesterday. She was in talks with Walmart about how the Gauteng government would use some of the R100m enterprise development fund to boost young entrepreneurs and small business. Walmart spokesman Brian Leroni yesterday confirmed discussions with "MECs and government officials. I cannot say I know the details of the talks." Ms Mahlangu said it was "extremely unfortunate" that Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson were challenging the Walmart deal, because "we are sending confusing messages to investors". "In talking to investors, the interests of SA should not be compromised because as much as we seek to see the country growing, we should not compromise issues of jobs and economic growth." President Jacob Zuma this year announced that almost R20bn had been allocated for job creation, matched by a similar amount in tax breaks for new business projects and the expansion of the manufacturing sector. Ms Mahlangu said government departments should make those incentives "practical" and ensure that they benefited investors. They could not be referee and player at the same time. "SA needs the world to believe that the country is open for business." Neren Rau, CEO of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said yesterday the chamber was pleased with the acknowledgement of messages being mixed — a concern for local investors too. This article was previously published on BusinessDay and written by Setumo Stone Category: guest article