Business Leadership SA’s CEO, Bonang Mohale says Corporate South Africa should take the lead in bringing about sustainability in the country through what he terms, Shared Value. He made this comment at Konrad Adenauer Foundation over the weekend.
He was quoted in Fin24, Mohale saying, “Gone are the days when business looked at government, saying government must create policy stability and an environment in which business can thrive. There must be wins for shareholders and the broader stakeholder community – including labour.”
Departing from the common mantra from captains of industry, his constituency, Mohale urges big business to “pay decent wages and make goods and services that the labour force can afford.”
He says the corporate sector’s ability to deliver on its promises will improve its standing in society and will translate into a “social licence to operate” in SA. He also implores big business to protect the environment and not harm communities in which they operate.
The corporate sector’s share of voice in the contestations around the direction the country should take depends on its credibility, adding that it was also crucial for captains of industry to take education seriously, instead of criticising from the side lines: “The surest way to transcend social class if you are born in Alexandra – 4km from the riches of Sandton – is education.”
“SA is the only African country which became free and did not improve the quality of education. A study says 80% of grade 4 learners cannot read with comprehension. So, business must take a leadership role in this regard,” Mohale adds.
Reputed for periodically stirring the hornet’s nest, Mohale ventured into the hot potato issue of land reform, inviting the BLSA members not to sit on the touch line, but actually take the lead to resolve the matter, without surrendering the opposition to the much talked about “expropriation without compensation”. The Constitution already makes provision for a rapid land reform programme in SA. “It is like having the keys to a house in your pocket, but you say ‘no, I will still kick down the door just to show I can’,” arguing that if there was an Olympic sport for development plans, SA would win hands down. “They just do not get implemented.”
Lastly Mohale implores corporates not to be despondent about the current tough economic conditions, but rather “we have to tighten our belts to pull ourselves out of the crisis”.
“Business must lead to create more jobs. There is no glory in being one of 17 million people having to queue for social security. We need a huge, bulging middle class to sustain our economy. Our middle class is not sufficient for that currently,” he concludes.