🔒 WORLDVIEW: Urgently needed political role for business requires testicular fortitude.

We’ve received mixed feedback on our support for Sygnia’s feisty CEO Magda Wierzycka who fired KPMG over its association with the Gupta plundering in SA. Among the accusations was one particularly irritated former SA corporate CEO who scolded that just because it’s not in the media doesn’t mean nothing is being done.

Perhaps. But given the dismal failure of the business world’s “quiet diplomacy” over Apartheid, Zimbabwe, HIV and most recently the economy’s lost decade under Zuma, it’s hard to see the approach as anything other than self-preservation. Biznews colleague Quentin Wray touches on the subject in today’s thoughtful contribution.

Quentin writes: “Jacob Zuma does not have a reputation as a classical scholar. He may be one, there’s no reason why he couldn’t be, but there is no evidence that he is. However I’m sure he understands that the parliamentary victory in last week’s episode of our very own Game of Thrones is the very definition of a Pyrrhic victory. Zuma won on Tuesday despite even his most ardent supporters not having anything good to say about his leadership and accordingly still has a job, but his victory came at a very heavy cost to the ANC and the next two years is going to keep us on the edge of our seats.

But while South Africans from around the world were getting all excited about the possibility that the news from home would be good – which would make a welcome change – politicians from further afield were going out of their way to show that we don’t have the monopoly on either stupidity or crass, self-serving venality. There seems to have been a massive global effort to put paid, once and for all, to the notion that we are somehow exceptional or special.

In the US, Donald Trump speaks about nuclear Armageddon as if it isn’t that much of a biggie, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is chucking missiles about with unseemly enthusiasm, Nicolas Maduro is going full Robert Mugabe in Venezuela and Brazil, while slowly emerging from recession, is still reeling from the discovery that its leadership is what can only be called dodgy. Nigeria has a president who is more sick than well and internecine conflict in Africa’s most populous nation is on the rise again. India and China also seem to have decided that being friends isn’t working out as well as they’d have liked it to and are rattling those old sabres once more.

In the UK the path to Brexit continues to be more obstacle than actual pathway and in France and Canada the shine is wearing off Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau who are learning the hard way that it’s a lot easier to be dishy and win votes than it is to please voters. Of course Vladimir Putin has decided that, apart from playing silly buggers around the globe, going shirtless again is the best way to make the punters happy.

Politics around the world is being driven by a rising tide of rabid anti-intellectualism that is, unfortunately, not only making the planet a more annoying place to live but is also starting to find its way into public policy. Investors are generally a sanguine lot and tend to reserve their displeasure for those who break the laws of economics rather than those who are merely murderous scumbags. There is a lot of talk about the importance of ethics and human rights but we all know that these are of secondary importance to the almighty returns.

And that is where the risks for western economies lie. When populist rhetoric crosses over from podium to policy, returns head inexorably weaker.

Business people more often than not try to stay out of politics but when the politics starts getting this stupid this is a luxury we can no longer afford. Getting involved has become the only way to mitigate risk. Ironically, business is becoming the watchdog over politicians rather than the other way round. I can’t help but feel that this is not a positive development.”

You have my vote Quentin. As does Magda, Lew Geffen and anyone else who has the testicular fortitude to shout out that SA’s Emperor is buck naked.

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