I write this following the 2017 State of the Nation address by South African president Jacob Zuma, a violent, divisive affair that can surely do nothing for investor or rating-agency confidence. Once again, Zuma’s SONA 2017 address was read to a house filled with only his own ANC colleagues. Not a healthy sign of a maturing democracy.
“In this 23rd year of our freedom, our mission remains the quest for a united, democratic, non-sexist, non-racial and prosperous South Africa,” said Zuma, when he was finally able to begin speaking. Who can object to this?
So why is it that the South African house of parliament, after 23 years of practice, cannot have a constructive debate about how to achieve this noble mission. And why is it that each individual aspect of this quest is less attainable now than it was during the first ‘Rainbow Nation’ parliament?
I am sure we all have opinions about when and why the wheels came off. Perhaps some will argue that they haven’t. Most of the facts quoted by Zuma were declared accurate by the ‘Fact Checkers’, certainly more so than those coming out of the world’s bench- mark democracy.
Yet the speech has not sparked abundant optimism. And the tone, like the utterances of the new US president, rings populist rather than genuinely responsive to the country’s needs.
One of the ANC’s ‘new’ policy directions is ‘radical economic transformation’. Superficially, it is hard to imagine its meaning differing from ‘economic freedom’ – is the ANC deliberately adopting EFF-like policies?
According to Zuma, radical socio-economic trans- formation means, “fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female”.
“Twenty-two years into our freedom and democracy, the majority of black people are still economically disempowered” ... and “dissatisfied with the economic gains from liberation,” he said. The clue as to what this radical transformation might mean in practice was revealed in the statement: “This includes using the state’s R500-billion annual budget to procure things from black businesses.” Is this new?
For the lead MechChem Africa article in the Plant maintenance, lubrication and filtration feature this month, we talk to Karl Nepgen about Pragma’s Asset Management Road Map. It is remarkable how multi- faceted this ‘whole-solution’ is.
At its starting point is an evaluation of the maturity level of an organisation’s maintenance strategies relative to benchmarked industry best practices. “Asset management looks at the whole lifecycle of a plant or operation, from the identification of a need for new equipment; through the conception, design, construction and procurement processes; the operate and maintain phase; and all the way to winding down, decommissioning and disposal,” says Nepgen.
Following the maturity assessment, Pragma’s Road Map takes the organisation through gap analysis, which indentifies the gaps between the actual and aspirational maturity levels of the plant. This becomes a starting point of developing an Asset Management Improvement Plan (AMIP), typically implemented over a period of between one and three years.
The detail is very comprehensively specified through 17 key performance areas (KPAs) and 150 best practices with monitored key performance indicators (KPIs) carefully specified to match the maturity of the organisation’s programme.
In the political space, improvement plans are being formed and reformed continuously. Zuma referenced several in this year’s SONA: the National Development Plan; the Nine Point Plan to reignite growth; SANRAL’s plan to upgrade the Moloto Road; and a plan to lower the costs of data “for the youth”.
But political plans tend to be viewed with scepticism. Perhaps this is why when Zuma talked about radical socio-economic transformation, he said: “We are saying that we should move beyond words, to practical programmes.”
Fundamental to ensuring that asset management plans achieve their goals are a structured set of objective checks and balances. Systematic and transparent monitoring of progress enables honest appraisals of what is and what isn’t working. While managers are held to account, the processes are designed to encourage responsiveness, responsible decision-making, clarity of purpose and unity across the organisation’s implementing team.
It is hard to see South Africa’s political maturity level much above fire-fighting mode. Our goals are in place, but our leaders are reacting, not implementing.
South Africa needs to create a Road Map like the one Pragma is applying to keep our assets healthy – one that embeds proper checks and balances and effective accountability.
Perhaps the keywords on Pragma’s Road Map may help: diagnose, strategise, comply, stabilise, improve, optimise, sustain and, as a general end goal, well being – for all.