Guest Column

Editorial: Corporate SA should hang its head in shame

2017-07-02 06:11

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The public outrage that greeted the release this week of the Deloitte report on executive pay in South Africa is justified and should be amplified a hundredfold.

Why?

The intersections of any and all roads in South Africa are manned by the poor, the homeless and the destitute. Unemployment is rampant at 27.7%. Housing is lacking. Healthcare is failing. Manufacturing is moribund. The economy is contracting, and the nation’s credit is wallowing in “junk” status.

The average per capita annual income in the country is R75 000 – what the Deloitte report suggests an executive could earn on any one day.

The moral bankruptcy that accompanies this obscene inequality cannot be hidden. In a nation that “boasts” the highest Gini coefficient in the world at an estimated 0.7 – with 1 being the most unequal – corporate South Africa should hang its head in collective shame.

Not only should shareholders express concern – no matter the value generated by the corporates that these executives serve – but the broader public, who are largely excluded from investing and participating in this value, should also lobby government to impose supertaxes on those who earn so much.

At a time when the focus on wealth and the means and modes of ownership coalesce broadly into white monopoly capital, these earning levels should, and will, stoke social unease and dissatisfaction.

While one wishes to avoid the trappings of idealism, any rational thought on the nature of a developing state means recognising the needs of the many over and above the needs of the executive few.

Corporate South Africa would do well to check itself, before it is held in check.

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