Col­lec­tive ac­tion gets best re­sults

Loyal dis­sent lit­tle more than a vent­ing ex­er­cise

Finweek English Edition - - Economic trends & analysis - TROYE LUND

BUSI­NESS DOESN’T SPEAK with one voice about how it should approach Gov­ern­ment about crime. Should it, and would it make a dif­fer­ence if it did?

Busi­ness Against Crime (BAC) CEO Siphiwe Nz­i­mande ac­cepts that it’s nor­mal for busi­nesses to adopt dif­fer­ent po­si­tions on is­sues. Busi­ness Lead­er­ship South Africa’s Michael Spicer, who also sits on Pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki’s Big Busi­ness Work­ing Group (BBWG), agrees.

But, both be­lieve that his­tory has proved “col­lec­tive ac­tion” by busi­ness gets the best re­sults.

BAC was set up to be that col­lec­tive voice for busi­ness to in­ter­act with Gov­ern­ment on crime, says Nz­i­mande.

BAC and the BBWG are in­volved in set­ting up an am­bi­tious plan to rope in re­tired CEOs to help over­haul the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. Each CEO will adopt or has adopted an area of the crim­i­nal jus­tice or polic­ing sys­tem so th­ese can be re-eval­u­ated and re-or­gan­ised.

He adds: “I have sym­pa­thy for FNB (it planned, paid for and with­drew a R10m ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign urg­ing Pres­i­dent Mbeki to do more about crime). They were look­ing for as­sur­ances.” Is BAC get­ting those as­sur­ances? “Yes, we are,” says Nz­i­mande, who re­it­er­ates that crime and its causes are com­plex – not some­thing that’s go­ing to be solved overnight.

While the In­sti­tute for Se­cu­rity Stud­ies blames Gov­ern­ment for poor lead­er­ship on this is­sue, it agrees that busi­ness in­ter­ven­tion/help to re­duce crime means tack­ling com­plex so­cial wel­fare and Gov­ern­ment ser­vice de­liv­ery is­sues as well.

But, what hap­pens when not ev­ery­one agrees that the prac­ti­cal, rel­a­tively be­hindthe-scenes and long-term strat­egy that BAC and BBWG have com­mit­ted to is enough? Busi­ness lead­ers such as Rem­gro’s Jo­hann Ru­pert say the crime sit­u­a­tion war­rants a vo­cal “loyal dis­sent” from busi­ness to spur Gov­ern­ment into re­al­is­ing the ex­tent of the prob­lem and tak­ing ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion.

Aside from this rift point­ing to in­ter­est­ing in­ter­nal busi­ness pol­i­tics, it begs the ques­tion about whether it gives Gov­ern­ment a di­vide-and-rule foothold that will al­low it to keep big busi­ness at bay on crime?

Idasa po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Steven Fried­man dis­misses this no­tion, say­ing that: “One of the great myths about busi­ness and pol­i­tics is that if busi­ness spoke with one voice ev­ery­thing would change. This is not re­al­is­tic and it’s not true. Why should busi­ness speak with one voice about any­thing?”

A source in the Pres­i­dent’s of­fice agrees, say­ing that scream­ing at Gov­ern­ment won’t have the de­sired ef­fect.

“The FNB ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign is def­i­nitely not the way to get re­sults,” says the same source, who asked not to be drawn into this is­sue by name.

Fried­man says: “If you take the view that Gov­ern­ment would like to do some­thing about crime but doesn’t know what and then you shout at them, three things will hap­pen. Gov­ern­ment will yell back like Safety and Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Charles Nqakula did when he said those who whinge about crime should leave the coun­try. It’ll get de­fen­sive, as Mbeki has al­ready done. It’ll do some high-profile PR ex­er­cises.”

But, would a pub­lic and uni­fied dis­play of “loyal dis­sent” by busi­ness on this and other so­cial is­sues re­ally be lit­tle more than a vent­ing ex­er­cise? “Yes,” says Fried­man. “So what?” asks po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Aubrey Mat­shiqi. He says that, in a democ­racy, there’s noth­ing wrong with shout­ing at the Pres­i­dent.

BBWG mem­bers agreed that cor­po­rate cit­i­zens have a right to yell at Gov­ern­ment but not if do­ing so would jeop­ar­dise prom- ising and work­ing plans that are in place. While the jury is out on what the BBWG project will achieve, this group stands by its ar­gu­ment that if you ex­pect to have a fun­da­men­tal ef­fect on an is­sue such as crime, then mak­ing the peo­ple you are try­ing to in­flu­ence an­gry and frus­trated isn’t wise. In other words, if ev­ery busi­ness pulled to­gether to feed into the BBWG and BAC plan, re­sults would be seen more quickly.

Whether one ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign by one cor­po­rate cit­i­zen would’ve ru­ined the BAC/BBWG’s long-term ef­fort to over­haul the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem is up for de­bate. Would Gov­ern­ment have been that petu­lant? The pros and cons of ev­ery­one hav­ing to tread on eggshells to get Gov­ern­ment to lis­ten are de­bat­able.

Busi­ness­men and an­a­lysts

dif­fer. Siphiwe Nz­i­mande,

Steven Fried­man,

Aubrey Mat­shiqi

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.