The cost of business

2013-01-20 10:00

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Remarks attributed to President Jacob Zuma at the ANC’s anniversary gala in Durban last weekend have attracted scrutiny. He reportedly told business leaders that those who support the ruling party would ‘prosper’. Andile Ntingi spoke to five business leaders to get their opinions

» Roger Jardine, Aveng Group CEO

party funding is a difficult issue around the world and our young democracy continues to grapple with this question. The issue is more controversial today because of unacceptable levels of corruption in our society.

Regardless of the context, when a president of any country makes a statement, whether off the cuff or a carefully crafted policy position, that statement will invite scrutiny. President Jacob Zuma’s statement can be taken at face value or construed in various ways. Political parties are free to exploit one another’s comments for political gain, but business leaders do not have that luxury.

The prosperity of our country and of our businesses are inextricably linked. It is important to work together for a prosperous nation, which we must not only measure in rands and cents, but by the degree to which we address unemployment, poverty, corruption and the many social challenges that our country currently faces. The private sector must play a meaningful role here.

We cannot have prosperity at all costs. Our political culture must be strong, our values as a society must be strong and the integrity of our institutions, public and private, must be strong.

No statement by an elected official should compromise corporate governance of a company. A company and its board can compromise corporate governance, or a rogue employee can do this by entering into arrangements without board approval. As business leaders, we must strengthen our fight against corruption in 2013.

In open and transparent societies, business leaders openly express their support for political parties and causes without fear of reprisal.

All South Africans, be they business leaders, community activists or ordinary citizens, should feel free to express themselves on issues that affect their daily lives or businesses.

There should be no expectation of political bias simply because companies and businesspeople signal support or indifference towards any political party.

This is at the heart of a culture of civic duty that is embedded in our Constitution.

The National Development Plan explicitly calls for an active citizenry and, after Mangaung, the ANC has called on business not to be bystanders but to participate in building our country.

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