BILLIONAIRE Christo Wiese, SA’s richest man, accused the government of implementing ill-considered policies that are curbing economic growth and undermining efforts to reduce poverty.
Examples included the introduction of new visa rules that deterred tourism and bureaucratic procedures that made it costly and time-consuming for people to access title deeds to properties where they had lived for decades, said Mr Wiese, who is worth about $7bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
"The one industry where SA consistently outperformed the world since 1994 was tourism," Mr Wiese said in an interview in his Cape Town office last week.
"Then we impose new visa regulations that no one can explain, and the effect is immediate. We shoot ourselves through both feet and then claim unintended consequence."
The visa rules introduced earlier this year require tourists to apply in person at a visitor centre for travel documents and for all children to carry a birth certificate with full details of both parents.
The government is reviewing the requirements after the number of visitors to the country slumped 5.9% to 2.29-million in the first quarter from the same period last year.
Most South African business leaders have been reluctant to take the government to task over policy shortfalls that have contributed to a 25% unemployment rate and an economic contraction in the second quarter, preferring to raise their concerns behind closed doors.
Besides Mr Wiese, others to have spoken out include Johann Rupert, the billionaire chairman of Compagnie Financiere Richemont SA and Remgro, and Simon Susman, the chairman of retailer Woolworths.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa defended the government’s economic policies on Wednesday, telling MPs in Cape Town that it had a clear plan to boost the growth rate to 5% by 2020.
While SA’s political leadership was lacking at times, the problem was temporary and the country could resolve its challenges, said Mr Wiese, who concluded SA’s biggest deal in a decade in March when he sold his discount retailer Pepkor to Steinhoff for R62.8bn.
Marcia Klein: BDLive/ Bloomberg