Nation building

#BusinessBelieves is one of the strongest messages ever issued by Business Leadership South Africa, and it’s why the JSE has pledged its support to a campaign that calls on companies to play a full part in the transformation the country so desperately needs

Nation building

Bonang Mohale, CEO of Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) maintains that it is fighting for the future of SA, in which everyone must play their part.

‘Over the past year, business leaders in South Africa have been accused of causing poverty, inequality and unemployment, and while business must accept its responsibility, these deceitful comments have been used to divert attention from the twin cancers of corruption and state capture that are eating away at this society,’ he says.

‘Business is now fighting back against the lies of that campaign – and making it clear that business believes in South Africa, and is a force for good.’

In this vein, the BLSA has created a contract with SA. Called #BusinessBelieves, it calls on business to self-examine and question how it meets goals that include economic growth, empowerment, small business development, job creation and transformation. Running in conjunction is an integrity pledge, which states that the pledging organisation will have zero tolerance for corruption within its own midst; it will not act anti-competitively; and it will protect whistle blowers.

Mohale says there is a moral imperative for businesses to support the campaign largely out of self-interest. ‘When the economy is strong, South Africa is strong. In order for business to succeed, we must play our part in driving inclusive economic growth and transformation while rooting out corruption and state capture wherever it is found.

‘We have to clear up our own house and, in turn, we expect a commitment from government to crush corruption and develop an environment that allows business to invest, grow the economy and create the jobs without which we will not have a future worth sharing.’ Mohale quotes an unemployment rate of 27%, with 200 000 fewer young people in jobs than in 2008, and more than 90% of the country’s wealth in the hands of just 10%.

‘Too many South Africans are living low-quality lives and denied the most basic opportunities. Too many are without a job and too often the dream of an equal South Africa has been betrayed.’

The pledging contract is also a reflection of the independent BLSA association’s core drivers, which focus on advancing a modern, inclusive and growing economy; upholding the Constitution and protecting the integrity of the state; and demonstrating that business is a national asset. It is through the BLSA that some of SA’s biggest and most well-known organisations engage with key players in society – including civil society and labour – and exchange ideas in national interest. ‘The BLSA also exists
to create effective dialogue with government and other stakeholders,’ says Mohale.

With 40 BLSA members listed on the JSE, the value of the bourse signing the pledge shows just how serious it is about change drivers. According to JSE CEO Nicky Newton-King, the growth of capital markets and the economy is a crucial component of the JSE and vital to its operations.

‘As an exchange, we have an important role to play in providing companies with ways to raise economic capital and development,’ she says.

By Kerry Dimmer
Image: Gareth van Nelson/HMimages