Special Reports

Companies take a bow

Yazeed Kamaldien, Fiona Macleod

Judges say without corporate support there would be chaos among communities

A spaza shop in Marikana. Lonmin miners went on strike demanding better wages. (Delwyn Verasamy)

Fiona Macleod

Platinum mining companies needed to commit to "doing things differently and working towards world-class standards", Anglo American chief executive Cynthia Carroll said when she announced her intention to step down last Friday.

Companies had to face up to the challenges of delivery in communities with "far greater expectations" and play a proactive role in ensuring continual alignment with communities, she said.

Upheavals in the platinum mining sector have refocused corporate social investment (CSI) thinking in recent months, particularly after the release of critical research by the Bench Marks Foundation highlighting gaps between promises made by companies and practices on the ground.

"Overall, we have seen very little improvement in the performance of the companies surveyed on corporate social responsibility. What we have seen is a large increase in corporate advertising, large spreads in newspapers and billboards stating how responsible mining is. Instead, all the companies should respond to community concerns over jobs, healthcare and a safe and healthy environment," said the foundation's chairperson, the Reverend Jo Seoka.

Lonmin was one of six mining companies in the platinum belt hauled over the coals by Bench Marks for failing to meet their social, economic and environmental commitments within the framework of global corporate social responsibility.

Months before the Marikana tragedy Lonmin submitted an entry for the Investing in the Future Awards that reflected serious investments in local community initiatives, including education and training, community health and enterprise development.

The company entered the education award category, with a programme that supported about 18 300 pupils in 29 schools around its operations in Marikana. It also offers bursaries for tertiary education and opportunities for adult basic education training.

Of the more than R30-million spent on these initiatives each year, only about 3% was used for branding and marketing purposes, the entry said.

When the Mail & Guardian launched the Investing in the Future awards 23 years ago, CSI was a fledgling industry. The annual awards have grown and changed in keeping with the evolution of CSI over the years, but the objective behind them remains to honour and encourage companies that take their role in a transitional society seriously.

To ensure the independence and credibility of the awards, a panel of CSI experts adjudicates them. The panel could not avoid discussing the meaning of Marikana for the future of CSI during the judging session in September.

They said it was important to emphasise the scale of the contribution that the more than 80 entrants for this year's awards had made to the well-being of South African society. "If you took away this support, there would be chaos among communities."

Most corporate commitments to the "triple bottom line" were being implemented on the ground by civil society non-profit organisations (NPOs), often in co-operation with government departments.

"Take the corporate money away and the whole non-profit sector will collapse," the judges said. "These organisations are having real impacts on the ground."

NPOs were already overstretched due to recession-induced funding cuts by corporate sponsors. Now, post-Marikana, suggestions were being made that companies should pool their CSI spending and give it to the government to manage.

"The platinum belt problems were not about the money but about whether the work on the ground was getting done," the judges said. "The issue is not about chequebooks, but rather effective monitoring. Business can't be expected to fill the needs that governments should be addressing."

A fragmented approach to sustainable development taken by many business sectors was compromising the impact of CSI, they said. The judges suggested that companies in different sectors should work together more closely to meet community expectations if they wanted to thrive and meet their global corporate social responsibility targets in future.

Meet the judges

Thanks to the judging panel of the 2012 Investing in the Future and Drivers of Change awards. These were the judges:

l Judi Nwokedi, chairperson of the panel, advises many com­panies and foundations on social investment.

l Neville Gabriel is executive ­director of the Southern Africa Trust.

l Tracey Henry is chief executive of Tshikululu Social Investments.

l Nombuyiselo Mapongwana is an HIV/Aids educator and counsellor.

l Shirley Moulder is a trustee of the Southern Africa Trust.

l Iqbal Survé is a medical doctor, philanthropist, entrepreneur and global business leader.

l Shereen Usdin is a senior executive of the Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication.

Model head of state

Winner

Drivers of Change Government Award

Pakalitha Mosisili

Yazeed Kamaldien

Earlier this year, Pakalitha Mosisili stepped down as Lesotho's prime minister after his party failed to secure an outright majority in parliamentary elections and the opposition united to oust him.

Mosisili was prime minister from May 1998 to June 2012 and he remains leader of the Democratic Congress Party. He has served as Lesotho's minister of defence, of education and of home affairs and local government.

The judges praised Mosisili for stepping down "with grace and ­dignity" and for "respecting the democratic process without contestation".

During his tenure as prime minister, his government achieved a number of milestones, including increasing women's participation in the Cabinet to 40% and to 60% in Parliament.

He also pushed for gender equality further afield and urged the African Union to work towards a world that encouraged equal rights for men and women.

He also prioritised equal opportunities in the public and private sector.

Mosisili's legacy in Lesotho included the introduction of free, compulsory education and ensuring voluntary counselling and testing was available for citizens of a country with one of the world's highest rates of HIV/Aids infection.

While he was completing a master's degree at Simon Fraser University in Canada in 1982, he was described as a "leading activist in the fight towards HIV/Aids prevention and treatment" and widely praised.

"Both Bill Clinton and Bill Gates have visited Lesotho and met Mosisili to discuss the country's epidemic.

"Lesotho is leading a universal roll-out programme for access to HIV/Aids-related medicines. It provides antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, and testing is widespread," said the university at the time.

"However, the effectiveness of ARV therapy is reduced if support services, clinical access and good nutrition are not readily available.

"Mosisili wants to move beyond mere aid to focus on sustainable development and building human capacity by directing aid into research, education, exchange programmes and public awareness," the university said.

Mosisili did not have an easy time as prime minister, though. Lesotho has a history of coups and political unrest, and, in 2009, he survived a violent attack on his residence by alleged mercenaries who planned to stage a coup.

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