From the editor
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?