BLSA CEO Letter – 28 November 2022
POSTED ON: November 28, 2022 IN by Admin
Organised crime is fast emerging as the biggest threat to our economy. It is now more damaging than bad policy or service delivery failures. We are in the grip of an epidemic with large industries from mining to construction being targeted by extortion rackets. This is undermining all of our efforts to build a country with a growing economy based on good policy and an effective state.
Business must work out how best to respond. BLSA subsidiary Business Against Crime has long been making an important contribution to the fight against crime. Our Eyes and Ears (E2) programme gathers intelligence from partners across business and private security companies to support the police to detect and investigate crime. I urge any business that is subject to an extortion attempt to report it at this website – this helps us to understand how organised crime is evolving so that we can support the police to tackle it.
These efforts have certainly helped – we have been able to track emerging threats to critical infrastructure and new industries being targeted. We have a good relationship with the police and intelligence sharing with the National Operational Command Centre.
But the explosion of extortion efforts targeting legitimate business across the country calls for new measures. The problem is that while businesses can pay for security and we can share knowledge, we cannot compile dockets and prosecute. Fundamentally no one can protect our security other than the state, and its capacity to do so is vastly weaker than it needs to be. As I wrote last week in news24, we have to have an effective police force and turning it around needs to be an urgent national priority. If we fail, we seriously risk descending into a mafia state with the formal sector squeezed out by criminals whose reach stretches deeply into our law enforcement structures.
This needs to become the new number one priority for organised business. We have rightly been focused on the damage of state capture. Indeed, the biggest single cause of the metastasising organised crime disaster is the destruction of the institutions of our criminal justice system during that period. The focus to date has been on resuscitating the National Prosecuting Authority. This was important work, and it has made progress – the fact that there are now 29 cases in the courts related to state capture, ranging from the former leaderships of Transnet and Eskom to the Guptas, is a good indicator that change is happening.
But I cannot say the same of the Hawks. The elite crime fighting unit was completely stripped of its skilled leaders and replaced with sycophants to the state capture machine. Too many of those are still at work in the organisation. While there have been some efforts to appoint strong leadership, including Hawks boss Godfrey Lebeya, it is a large and complex organisation that needs to be systematically rebuilt. According to author Jacques Pauw, it has more vacancies (2,780) than filled posts. Recruiting top quality investigators who can turn the tide against organised crime is difficult, but this is an area where business can contribute skills and support renewal.
If we are to beat the systemic risk posed by organised crime, we need the Hawks’ crime intelligence and commercial crime units to be fully functional and effective. There simply is no alternative – this is not something that business can do itself. The best we can do is support the police and its interaction with the wider criminal justice system to ensure it becomes effective.
I will be working with my colleagues on ways we can rise to this new challenge. It is now mission critical for business in South Africa. I will be engaging with our public sector counterparts to determine how we can make a difference on this crucial issue.
Please reach out if you have ideas and insights that can support the effort.
South Africa has now run out of options to fix the short-term problem of load shedding, I write in @News24_Business. Eskom and other analysts have been forecasting for years that load shedding will get worse and only Eskom’s use of diesel to supplement capacity has been keeping us from suffering higher stages. It has already spent R11.1bn on diesel since 1 April – that’s almost double its budget of R6.1bn and it’s money it cannot afford. The sooner we accept the fact that load shedding will be with us for a good few years more, and focus on the real underlying problems rather than the spin, the shorter our path towards affordable and reliable electricity
The way SA emerged from the pandemic has won respect globally – a point that was emphasised repeatedly by the IMF team responsible for the Financial Sector Assessment Programme it undertook on SA, I write in my Business Day column. The South African Reserve Bank was praised for its quick response to the pandemic. It was able to achieve this because it had developed a relationship of trust with the financial sector and its communication with the markets has always been transparent.
BLSA is a business organisation that believes in South Africa’s future and shares the values set out in the Constitution. In 2017, BLSA signed a contract with South Africa, committing business to playing its part in creating a South Africa of increasing prosperity for all by harnessing the resources and capabilities of business in partnership with government and civil society to deliver economic growth, transformation and inclusion.
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