The column headlined “Corporate SA cannot remain aloof from country’s challenges” (December 3 2017), by Business Times editor Ron Derby raises important issues about the role of business in our country.
One of the most pertinent issues he raises is whether business will stay engaged with efforts to resolve South Africa’s issues, which cannot be addressed by the state alone, even if “an unpopular candidate wins this month, which is a real possibility.”
I welcome Derby’s important intervention, and wish to assure him that never, and never again, will business leave the pitch.
We’ve seen the damage that can occur when business allows important decisions to be taken without it.
That said, it’s important to understand the stance of Business Leadership SA as far as the ruling party’s 54th national conference is concerned.
Business has no particular preference as to which of the presidential candidates should be chosen.
However, like all South Africans, we have a keen interest in the political life of our country; for this is our patriotic duty.
Within this context, BLSA has extended invitations to all the candidates to listen to our expectations and in turn we will listen to their visions about our economy.
This process is ongoing.
As ANC members prepare to elect new leaders, it is important that they do all they can to ensure that the conference proceeds smoothly in accordance with the laws of the country.
We think, minimally, they should insist on a leader who will possess qualities that include: loyalty to the constitution; a commitment to eradicating state capture, and, in this regard, we reiterate our call for the speedy establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, as provided for in the public protector’s State of Capture report; a willingness to strengthen and protect the integrity of state institutions, especially those within the criminal justice system, the National Treasury and the Reserve Bank; and a commitment to address the problems affecting the governance, leadership and balance sheets of state-owned enterprises.
In August, we signed a contract with South Africa, undertaking, to work towards accelerating inclusive growth, promoting small business development, creating jobs and transformation.
Our members have committed themselves to an integrity pledge to promote adherence to the highest standards of corporate ethics and governance.
As well as speaking out against corruption in the public sector, the pledge requires us to act decisively against corruption within our own ranks. It is within this context that we suspended the membership of KPMG and Eskom soon after we learnt of serious allegations of wrongdoing by these members.
Last week, we proactively initiated talks with MultiChoice, one of our members, after we learnt of allegations regarding its dealings with government and some of its content suppliers.
Even though Steinhoff is not a BLSA member, we have condemned its actions, which have wiped out billions of pensioners’ life savings in days. We are calling on full and proper investigation.
After the successful conclusion of the ANC conference, BLSA stands ready to work with the new leaders, whoever they are, to jumpstart our economy.
It is true that leaving the pitch – allowing serious decisions about us to be made without us – was a huge oversight.
The consequence is there for everyone to see: state capture thrived in our midst; crucial state institutions were hollowed out; and policy flip-flops became the order of the day. I’m confident South Africans have it in them to restore hope to millions of our people.
We’ve done it before, we can do it again. And business is ready to play its part.
Published in Sunday Times – Business Times (10 December 2017)