State capture – the phrase that united a nation against corruption and ultimately lead to a change of leadership – is still fresh in the memories of all South Africans.
With a new president, a renewed commitment to stamp out corruption, and a democracy that is maturing year by year, our country, city, political climate and even the commercial property sector as a whole have much to be grateful for.
Unfortunately, there will always be corrupt elements, both in government and the private sector – and the only way to keep them at bay is to develop an ethical culture in all areas of life.
State capture: blame extends far beyond the president’s office
The highly publicised removal of Jacob Zuma from the country’s highest office was celebrated by from Cape Town to Limpopo as a victory against corruption – but it would be a mistake to believe that state capture began and ended with the former president.
- From cabinet ministers to government officials and some of the most trusted names in South Africa’s financial industry, scores of people and organisations have been implicated in state capture.
While investigations are ongoing, and nobody has been sentenced as yet, one thing is extremely clear: South Africa’s descent into state capture was made possible by a culture of turning a blind eye to corruption.
That culture is in urgent need of change.
Making ethical behaviour a way of business – and life
Despite the prominent voices of corporate governance advocates, several well-known corporations have been accused of aiding and abetting state capture.
Government tenders and fiscal mismanagement are not the only examples of dishonest dealings.
The recent accounting scandal and financial collapse at Steinhoff shook investor confidence and revealed a lack of ethical conduct at one of South Africa’s iconic corporates.
Many South Africans are beginning to ask themselves and each other uncomfortable questions: Have we become desensitised to corruption? Can government and large corporates be trusted to do the right thing without our constant supervision? Are we somehow responsible for these developments?
Whatever your personal opinion on the matter, you’ll probably agree that the public and private sectors need an ethical compass – and the King IV regulations aim to be that compass.
Drafted by Judge Mervyn King in 2016 – when state capture was at its height – the new regulations move away from rules-based thinking. Companies will now be judged by the principles they embrace and the results they produce, not the fact that they “technically” comply with the law.
With any luck, this should help to instil an ethical culture in the SA business environment – and the commercial property sector should do its part to comply.
Turning our commercial spaces into ethical spaces
There are plenty of businesses in South Africa – and in the commercial space – that already operate according to ethical principles.
While recognising this achievement, the sector will need to ensure that all its members hold themselves to a high ethical standard.
Transparent dealings with building owners, tenants, the surrounding community and the local government are excellent starting points. This includes full disclosure when buying, selling or letting office space and working together to ensure the sustainability of our sector, city and country.