What does it mean for business to serve public interest? President of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) Sipho Pityana, posed this question at the launch of the Yunus Mahomed Public Interest Award on 8 October 2019. Carried out in partnership with selected universities, the award recognizes published articles in law, business and ethics. The late Yunus Mahomed was an anti-apartheid activist, lawyer and businessman whose approach to law and business honoured public interest.
Lebo Mosiane, Kagiso Capital Investment Manager, facilitated a panel discussion entitled Law, Business, Government: Morality and Ethics in Public Interest. The panel consisted of Sipho Pityana, Advocate Terry Motau, Dr Lulu Gwagwa, Busisiwe Mavuso, and Reverend Frank Chikane.
“Morality and ethics are not limited to religion,” stated Kagiso Trust Chairperson, Reverend Frank Chikane. He further mentioned there’s a reason ethics are included in the King report; business cannot be done with people that cannot be trusted and relied upon. “Failure to be ethical in business, destroys business” he concluded.
CEO of Lereko Investments, Dr Lulu Gwagwa, insisted business needs to see itself as part of society. “It can’t be business and society; where we come in and go out when and as it suits us. We must be business in society”, she said.
Drawing on the Reserve Bank report (the investigation report into fraud at VBS Mutual Bank), Advocate Motau urged South African business to learn from the VBS case. In addition, he called for law enforcement institutions to be reinvigorated. “People know that nothing happens to perpetrators. Responsible institutions don’t do anything.
As we rebuild our country,” said Motau, “We must understand that this is a holistic problem of an orchestrated plan. To undo it, we need to realize this is a collective responsibility.”
Business Leadership SA (BLSA) CEO Busisiwe Mavuso, stated that business should have a role in social cohesion. Referring to the march of Alexandra residents to Sandton, calling for an end to the rampant crime in the area and wanting the government to take action against youth unemployment and widespread substance abuse, Mavuso reflected on a discussion she had with CEOs at BLSA. “I said, if this doesn’t make us stop, pause and reflect as business, I don’t know what will…”
“This fight is being brought to our doorsteps. It says what is your role going to be as business. Are we going to continue with this unemployment of about 30%?”
The pursuit of justice in the time of democracy remained key to the article that Yunus Mahomed Public Interest awardee Nigel Patel, had produced. Titled Violent Cistems: Trans experiences of bathroom space, the University of Cape Town student’s paper drew attention to the injustices of having gender restricting bathroom spaces and the ideologies which manifest in verbal, visual and physical violence against the victims, most of whom are women,
homosexual, transgender and those not confined to the traditional gender stereotypes. Reverend Chikane together with Yunus Mahomed’s life partner Judge Dhaya Pillay, handed over the award and R10 000 cheque.
(from left) Lebo Mosiane, Advocate Terry Motau, Dr Lulu Gwala, Mr Sipho Pityana, Busisiwe Mavuso, and Reverened Frank Chikane
Yunus Mahomed Public Interest Award 2019 National Winner: Nigel Patel
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About the Yunus Mahomed Public Interest Award
Yunus Ismail Mahomed (1950-2008) was a South African lawyer, anti-apartheid cadre, development activist and business leader.
The Yunus Mahomed Public Interest Award provides an avenue for constructive engagement between the providers of goods and services, usually an organ of state, and affected communities, usually poor and marginalised groups. Without public interest litigation, the aspirational objectives of our Constitution may not materialise. Moreover, conducting research and publishing articles that promote human rights, ethical conduct and legal activism contribute to the ongoing discourse on transformation and development of our society.