From the edi­tor

JANA MARAIS

Finweek English Edition - - CONTENTS -

per­haps the only ad­van­tage of Nenegate and the dire state of the econ­omy is that busi­ness is prob­a­bly the best-placed it’s been in years to re­ally make its voice heard at Luthuli House and the Union Build­ings. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween the pri­vate sec­tor and the ANC has never been par­tic­u­larly warm, and that is also un­der­stand­able, given our his­tory of cor­po­rate ex­ploita­tion. Yet the prospect of a junk credit rat­ing and its im­pli­ca­tions for the econ­omy has forced gov­ern­ment, or at least some state de­part­ments, to ex­tend a warmer hand of friend­ship to the pri­vate sec­tor. This is im­por­tant, be­cause make no mis­take: with­out a flour­ish­ing pri­vate sec­tor, South Africa can­not and will not thrive.

So why then is the pri­vate sec­tor wast­ing this op­por­tu­nity to make friends and in­flu­ence pol­icy?

One ex­am­ple of SA Inc.’s cur­rent tone-deaf­ness is ex­ec­u­tive pay. How do you jus­tify a R23.7m golden hand­shake for a CEO who had to re­sign with im­me­di­ate ef­fect af­ter his com­pany was fined $5.2bn for fail­ing to com­ply with gov­ern­ment rules. (Ad­mit­tedly, these rules were the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment’s, but it demon­strates a cer­tain at­ti­tude, doesn’t it?) This hand­shake brought MTN CEO Si­fiso Dabengwa’s to­tal pay to over R40m for 2015 – in­ci­den­tally the same year in which call cen­tre and re­tail shop as­sis­tants at its South African op­er­a­tions were on strike for nearly two months, pick­et­ing for is­sues such as per­ma­nent po­si­tions for ca­sual work­ers and ex­tra pay for work on Sun­days and pub­lic hol­i­days.

Dabengwa is not the only one, of course. An­glo Amer­i­can, which has been cut­ting jobs and sell­ing off some of its mines in SA, paid its CEO Mark Cu­ti­fani a handy £3.4m (R71.7m at cur­rent rates) last year, a de­cline of 8.3% com­pared with 2014. Yet the com­pany lost a whop­ping 75% of its share value last year.

An­other ex­am­ple is the depart­ment of labour’s lat­est em­ploy­ment eq­uity (EE) re­port. Six­teen years af­ter the first re­port was is­sued, rep­re­sen­ta­tion of whites at top man­age­ment level was at nearly 70%, more than six times their rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the eco­nom­i­cally ac­tive pop­u­la­tion.

We can de­bate the gaps and chal­lenges around (EE) leg­is­la­tion all we want, but the re­al­ity is that statis­tics like these do not demon­strate a pri­vate sec­tor that is com­mit­ted to work­ing with gov­ern­ment to build a bet­ter coun­try for all. So why then are we al­ways so out­raged when gov­ern­ment doesn’t bend back­wards for busi­ness?

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