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I am Canadian, but SA has been integral to both my upbringing and my professional journey. I vividly recall the visit of Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Toronto 37 years ago. His plea to Canadians to stand against apartheid left a lasting impression. “What you do where you are counts,” he said, reminding us that our actions reverberate around the world.

SA has travelled an inspiring journey but it now stands at a pivotal juncture and must urgently address the three most critical constraints hampering the nation’s progress: energy, logistics, and especially crime and corruption.

It is important to reflect on the importance of the rule of law in maintaining societal equilibrium. As a leader in a global mining company I care deeply about the promotion and preservation of the rule of law everywhere we operate, because it is a critical foundation of not just our business but society too. 

While the term “rule of law” has become part of the popular lexicon, it is often understood rather parochially as being about following the rules and obeying the law. But when I think about the power behind the rule of law and what it can unlock and enable, it becomes far more encompassing than just being law-abiding.

The rule of law is the anchor of constitutionalism and is fundamental to a rights-based constitutional democracy. It is premised on values and what we hold sacrosanct as humanity, and in this respect it is foundational to the success of a functioning society.    

The rule of law can play a critical part in galvanising and enrolling all people to take up their roles as active citizens in the country. This is a necessary part of ensuring that the promise of democracy is achieved. Without this foundation there can be no hope of achieving economic, social and developmental progress. 

Anglo American’s proactive stance in combating HIV/Aids and establishing progressive labour relations since the late 1980s, facilitating the recognition of black trade unions, is a testament to our commitment to justice and equality. This philosophy steered the negotiations of the 1993 National Peace Accord, paving the way for SA’s historic first nonracial general election in 1994. 

Decades later, our dedication remains unwavering. Our goal is to harness the collective power of our society, fostering active citizenship to realise the promise of democracy. Without this, attaining economic, social and developmental progress and safeguarding people’s rights and freedoms will remain elusive. 

While we support the specific initiatives to fight crime and corruption, we recognise that to be effective and sustainable they must be premised on a strong foundation of the rule of law. That is why we believe organisations must also focus on promoting constitutionalism and a healthy respect for the rule of law and the notion that nobody is above the law. There are many direct parallels between eroding adherence to the rule of law and the escalation in crime and corruption.   

As a mining company we are no stranger to the ineffable effects of crime and corruption on our businesses and our industry. The threat to the mining industry is real — and its worst effects are felt in the deaths of mine employees and community members, and closures of operations.

Beyond the obvious financial impact to the company, there’s the knock-on impact on the fiscus, which bleeds billions each year. From poor financial ratings and greylisting to damaging investor confidence in this jurisdiction, the high levels of crime and corruption are puncturing the country’s economic recovery prospects.

Unless and until SA meaningfully deals with this scourge it will find it exceedingly difficult to raise investment and effectively compete for the capital it requires to fulfil its national goals.

When we think about tackling crime and corruption we must hold two concepts simultaneously: what are we doing now to bolster law and order and capacitate structures to do this, and what role must we play in cultivating societies where the rule of law prevails as an enduring value? 

SA is dealing with far-reaching challenges. Criminal enterprises are attacking the mining industry, and targeting Transnet’s rail infrastructure and Eskom, in effect sabotaging the economy. A singular focus on rooting out crime and corruption and prosecuting the offenders is nonnegotiable.

But efforts in this regard, such as achieving energy security and rebuilding critical rail and port infrastructure, require consensus and urgent action. We support efforts to reduce crime and corruption, protect economic infrastructure and set SA on a path of social stability. These efforts augment numerous industrywide initiatives as well as partnerships and initiatives at a community level.   

It is easy — and probably justified — to question whether the Business for SA (B4SA) partnerships with the government will work and move the country forward. But at this critical juncture we should also all be “all hands on deck” — whether through direct partnering with the B4SA initiatives such as the national energy crisis committee (Necom), the national logistics crisis committee and joint initiative to fight crime and corruption (JICC) or in other ways.  

Collaboration and partnership will move us forward, but this requires consensus and the ability to move with agility and pace. I’m encouraged by the green shoots that point to collaboration working through the Necom structure. We can see for ourselves how this committee enables pace in action through structures that support faster decision-making for Eskom.

The JICC — of which I am part — and other initiatives within various other industry bodies are offering up solutions and matching concern with action. Several targeted interventions are being initiated to fortify the nation’s defence against escalating crime. Foremost among them is strengthening the capacities of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the Hawks and the Investigating Directorate.

This country, which is in many ways the envy of many other modern democracies, has been blessed with a progressive and world-leading constitution. In its preface it sets out a bold vision to “heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights; and lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law”. 

This is a bold vision that we cannot betray. We need to act now, for the future. To paraphrase Archbishop Desmond Tutu, what we do now counts for tomorrow.

Price is legal & corporate affairs director at Anglo American and is involved in the Business for SA partnership to address crime and corruption in the country. 

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