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Wendy Appelbaum: If business doesn't stand up, there'll be nothing left

Aug 05 2017 09:08
Carin Smith

Cape Town - Although she regards herself as semi-retired, that does not stop businesswoman Wendy Appelbaum, considered one of the richest women in Africa, from being part of "the big mouth" in speaking out against corruption, she said on Thursday.

Appelbaum was part of a panel discussion on whether business has a responsibility or a voice in the media and politics. It formed part of The Gathering, an event hosted by Daily Maverick and Nando's at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

"There seems to be a free for all right now and everybody is making hay at the moment, because the sun is about to set," she commented.

"At the same time, I believe that if business can work together, it can be much stronger as a whole - and there are people stepping up."

Appelbaum regards Sipho Pityana, chair of AngloGold Ashanti and convenor of the Save South Africa campaign, as an example of one such business leader who has stepped up to "fearlessly lead the way".

"If business does not stand up, it will have nothing left. We are on the edge of the precipice," she cautioned.

READ: CEOs agree to work with Gigaba, but want state capture inquiry

Question of fear?

Financial journalist Bruce Whitfield, who chaired the panel discussion, responded by asking whether the actions of business were not perhaps motivated by a fear of loss, and whether the business sector has left it too late to speak up.

"Has big business gone into panic mode?" Whitfield asked.

Appelbaum replied that in her view, there are "good" and "bad" companies.

At the same time she regards South African companies as probably some of the highest taxed in the world. She believes this is mainly because of the "add-ons" like corporate social investment and black economic empowerment requirements.

She said companies should "vote" with their advertising budget, and business can assist the media in delivering messages with gravitas. In her view there should be an investigation fund for such a purpose.

"One should also find and focus on the good Chapter 9 institutions like the Human Rights Commission," said Appelbaum.

READ: Pityana: We must reclaim our country from the crooks

Mike Abel, chief executive partner and co-founder of M&C Saatchi Abel, was also a panel member. He said that today it is not a matter any more of which government account a company might lose if it speaks out, as "there will be nothing left anyway" if nobody does so.

He used Wayne Duvenage, chair of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, as an example of a business leader who left his position as CEO of a company to take up the fight against corruption.

"I think Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba understands that he must engage with the business sector. There are many good guys in the ANC," said Abel.

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state capture  |  sa economy  |  corruption
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