Business as usual at the top

2014-07-06 15:00

In October 2012, just two months after the Marikana massacre, President Jacob Zuma and key Cabinet ministers met top leaders of South Africa’s trade unions and the business community.

The Presidential High-Level Dialogue was a direct response to the deadly strife in the mining industry, the upsurge in unprotected strikes in other sectors of the economy and downgrades by influential ratings agencies.

It was one of the biggest heavyweight gatherings of economic decision makers in democratic South Africa. There was a sense of crisis.

The parties emerged from that summit with an “action package” that included a variety of economic stimuli and job-creation measures. It also included measures to deal with social pressures that were fuelling working class ferment, such as poverty and inequality.

The biggest resolution from this powwow was a proposal for a salary and bonus freeze among the highest-paid South Africans in the public and private sectors as a strong signal of a commitment to build an equitable economy.

Zuma was bullish, saying the participants had emerged “with one voice, one message and strong confidence in our capacity as a society to address the immediate challenges we face”.

Business Unity SA president Jabu Mabuza trumpeted the measure by saying “it is wrong that while people are dying for R12?500 a month, there are displays of obscene wealth”. That was 20 months ago.

Since then, company boards have given executives generous increases and massive bonuses. Parastatal bosses have raked in millions in pay and bonuses. Zuma has approved 5% salary increases for office bearers, backdated to April last year.

Only he declined to take an increase on his R2.6?million salary. So, in essence, it has been business as usual at the top.

How odd then that workers, whose wage expectations have been called unreasonable, are the only ones being told their demands are “harming the economy” and lowering the country’s credit rating.

Workers cannot solely be expected to modify their demands when bosses still take home millions in pay, bonuses and shares. Government leaders also have to find better ways to defuse the tension between business and labour if the economy is to be rescued from the fire.

Workers cannot be the only ones expected to play their part. Everyone has to come to the party.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.