EDITORIAL: Now that's the way to do it
NEDBANK chairman Reuel Khoza's criticism of the quality of political leadership in SA will find a strong echo in just about every significant boardroom in the country.
Writing in his chairman's statement in the bank's annual report last Friday, Mr Khoza said that "our political leadership's moral quotient is degenerating and we are fast losing the checks and balances that are necessary to prevent a recurrence of the past".
There is little doubt about who he is referring to, as he continues: "SA is widely recognised for its liberal and enlightened constitution yet we observe the emergence of a strange breed of leaders who are determined to undermine the rule of law and override the constitution."
No South African business leader, black or white, has thrown such criticism at a sitting president, let alone a government, since 1994. We applaud him for it and wish more business leaders could find the courage to follow his example or, at least, to support him in public.
It is not that business needs to become a permanent part of political discourse. It has better things to do - there are profits to make and taxes to be paid.
But neither can business cringe before raw political power (and frequently, outright intimidation ) without putting its rights as a corporate citizen at risk.
The fact is, the administration of President Jacob Zuma plays fast and loose with key public institutions. The selections of top judges and prosecutors have become hopelessly tied to the political whims of the president and have often led to blunder and controversy - Menzi Simelane, Willem Heath, Judge Ngcobo, Judge Mogoeng, to mention some examples. In this climate it is little wonder business is reticent to invest more than it does.
Mr Zuma's fiddling with the Constitutional Court has been incredibly destructive and the conniving to get Richard Mdluli back into his job as head of crime intelligence is just as breathtaking.
As polite and restrained as Reuel Khoza's statement might have been, its target was obvious and well chosen. As president, Mr Zuma has gravely weakened key national institutions in a bid to protect himself. Let us hope Mr Khoza's statement helps bring him to his senses.
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