In a country as fractured as South Africa, in which persistent inequality and the tentacles of corruption have reached deep into the organs of the state, the hope – until recently – had always been that business would prevail over the long run and in so doing uplift the lives of all. The dominant economic thesis has been – and to a considerable extent remains – that, after all, the economy will keep chugging along in spite of the erosion of our political frameworks. These ideas, however, depended on a single and very simple assumption: that business would behave ethically.
Recent events in South Africa have proven, however, that we cannot take for granted that this will always be the case. And any failure of credibility in those firms upon which the concept itself of trust is invoked – the audit firms, the management consulting firms, the newspaper industry – is far worse than the failure of an industrial firm. For this failure undermines not only a company, or an industry, but the thin layer of faith upon which all else depends.
Oddly, despite the substantial evidence of state capture in South Africa, and despite the almost daily revelations of further government agency and state-owned enterprise executives being implicated in one or another cynical act of wilful myopia within these institutions whilst graft is taking place at obscene levels, there is a preponderance of inaction rather than action. Most of us are pinned in a state of inaction, in a state of waiting, in a state of hoping.
In the main, it would appear that we simply continue to wait. But we should be cautious in our inaction, for at some point in time, it may be too late. There may be far less to hope for, and we will have waited in vain.
Chief Executive Officer