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This year, South Africans have been mesmerised by the complicity of giants of the private sector in corruption and state capture. The disclosures about long-established and ostensibly reputable companies such as KPMG, McKinsey, Bell Pottinger and SAP have exposed a world of double-dealing and brazen dishonesty that has shocked many people. The assumption, it seems, had been that such global icons of capitalism existed primarily as a force for societal good. However, while the corporate state capture disclosures may be extreme, these situations are far from the only ones in which the private sector operating in SA undermines efforts to transform society for the better. The vast inequality that characterises SA underpins the country’s social and economic instability, and provides fertile ground for corruption. But many of SA’s biggest companies appear to operate in a universe entirely divorced from the realities of society, and act in ways worsening this inequality, rather than use th...

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