Ethics in business


Confusion is starting to creep in. The Zondo commission has spotlighted what can be construed as ethical by a board member; this was after awkwardly hearing responses from a former SAA board member Yakhe Kwinana. The former board member’s answers gave rise to Mr Zondo’s Deputy Chief Justice’s concern, especially when considering the board’s fiduciary duties, level of education, and trust given to the board members in South Africa.

People would typically think the education and experience set them apart from other people, and ordinary people can easily trust them. Many companies have recently failed at experienced professionals’ hands, and the root causes of their failure were mainly due to ethics failure, as per my observations. In general, the professional bodies should zoom in on the loss of these companies and consider the impasse these have caused and take the necessary actions to stop the surge.

Through a professional code of ethics, I would think most professionals always act ethically when in business’s dealings, the recent events have changed this view. Did it remain the question raised by the Deputy Chief Justice recently that as an educated person, would the person with your qualification not foresee something sinister with some of the board actions? The question raised in response to the contradictory answers given.

I would not think this is solely something that is happening only in the public space but rather in all our companies, both public and private. We have recently witnessed the collapse of various private and public sector companies and resulted in an impact on employee suffering.

It is a critical disjuncture for all of us who are in government or business to think critically about our activities in response to our actions. To be ethical needs to be reinforced amongst all of us, especially those in leadership positions and given positions of trust.

I am expressing this view because of our actions’ have unintended rippling effects and considerable impact on society. The resultant problems for employees will be in many forms. The likely costs to the employees will be unemployment and thus lost income, resulting in money-related illnesses. Not having money to pay for the school’s education and repossession of the owners’ valuable property is the case with the current SAA employees who opted for severance packages, this breaks my heart when considering this issue.

Let us all stop this scourge. The reinforcement of ethics will be a welcomed intervention in my view, even if ethics education can be introduced in our school curriculum for all to understand and practice.