A re-elected South African government confirmed the re-appointment of Minister of Economic Development, Mr Ebrahim Patel on May 25, 2014. The ministry is responsible for the implementation of South Africa’s competition policy. His was not the only important recent appointment. Just last week Minister Patel announced the appointment of Mr Tembinkosi Bonakele as Competition Commissioner for the next five years.
Mr Bonakele is not new to the authority. He has acted as Deputy Commissioner, head of mergers, head of compliance and senior legal counsel. He left the Commission, which had been plagued by a number of key senior staff resignation for seven months in 2013 but returned to be Acting Commissioner from October last year, following the somewhat controversial resignation of former Commissioner Shan Ramburuth.
Mr Bonakele’s task of managing internal staff issues and rebuilding unity and cohesion has not been easy. But this appointment is a vote of confidence which will enable him to demonstrate his independence and leadership in the difficult task of integrating competition policy independently of, but with input from government, labour, business, consumer groups and competition law practitioners.
The fact that the responsible Minister has been re-appointment is clearly good for creating a more stable environment.
Mr Bonakele’s experience gives an enhanced understanding of the dynamics and relationships essential to the Commission’s effective functioning. Not only are internal relationships key, but relationships with the Competition Tribunal and international competition agencies and networks are important to the South African authority, recently ranked 8th in the world in effectiveness of its anti-monopoly policy.
The Commissioner has signalled an intention to focus on abuse of dominance, the new market inquiry into the private healthcare sector, and follow ups on bid-rigging in construction industry.
Keeping it close has been a recent pattern at the Commission. Two significant divisional appointments made from within the ranks in January under Mr Bonakele’s watch, with Liberty Mncube promoted to Chief Economist and Junior Khumalo to Divisional Manager of Enforcement and Exemptions.
We are optimistic that stability has been restored to the Commission under Mr Bonakele’s authority.