The wheel has turned. The last time business faced a state failing to deliver on law and order or the basics of democracy, the South African Foundation was quiet or complicit. Now business has spoken up, The Thick End of the Wedge (February 5).
Johann Rupert sees the parallel with the past, and wants business to get it right this time. Paul Harris picked the one issue that unites the country. Peter Bruce was right to call for activism over protocol. All three are playing “brave cricket”.
On the other hand, Michael Spicer and Derek Cooper agree on principles but want trust and quiet diplomacy. Why? If you want a relationship, then speak softly, but if you want results, you carry a big stick. Sure, our politicians respond badly to pressure — PW Botha wagged his finger, Robert Mugabe shook his fist and Thabo Mbeki shakes his head — but they don’t respond at all to politeness.
Business can learn from unions that being assertive, backed by workers toyi-toying during negotiations and paralysing the economy through secondary strikes, is ugly but it works.
Being polite and weak gets empty promises and the finger — and no doubt Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula gave the one and showed the other last week.
Crime is just a succession issue for the African National Congress, but it is life and death for us. Business needs its leaders to unite and act. Spicer and Cooper choose to pin their faith on the will and capacity of the state to deliver. That tack will change when they see knee-jerk denials and empty promises are covers for a ruling party whose only concern is looting the state. That is just a question of time, so don’t bin those pamphlets yet.