Business organisation Business Leadership South Africa’s (BLSA’s) top two priorities in its strategy are assisting in ending the electricity crisis and supporting institutions of law and order, CEO Busi Mavuso writes in her weekly newsletter.
She says this is in line with BLSA having to deploy its limited resources in a way that delivers the greatest return so as to serve the interests of its members, who fund the organisation’s operations.
Mavuso says organised crime has become a major problem for the business sector, which has been subject to growing extortion threats and sabotage, compounded by background levels of criminality that impact on South Africa.
“That is why, when BLSA was approached by Eskom CEO André de Ruyter in 2021 to fund an assessment of the risks to Eskom from criminality, we were happy to consider it. In De Ruyter’s view, corruption and organised crime were and are a material part of the problems afflicting Eskom.
“This intractable problem required skilled external resources to investigate and understand, resources that Eskom itself could not provide and which the criminal justice system, including the police, had not provided to a sufficient degree,” Mavuso outlines.
She explains that De Ruyter’s request aligned with both of BLSA’s priorities.
“He was clear that organised crime and sabotage were major factors afflicting Eskom, alongside financial and operational issues. I know from our own members that many are also victims of the same challenges.
“Indeed, the criminal networks that have infiltrated Eskom use similar modus operandi to the issues other businesses have faced,” Mavuso explains.
She says the organisation’s efforts to help resolve the electricity crisis are multi-faceted.
“We have been robust supporters of the National Electricity Crisis Committee (Necom), contributing significantly to the R100-million Resource Mobilisation Fund that will cover the technical skills required by Necom to advance its plan to deal with the electricity crisis.
“We have also contributed through technical assistance mentorship development to supporting Operation Vulindlela to implement already agreed policy that will help resolve the electricity crisis and have seconded skills to municipalities and other institutions to support maintenance and repair of infrastructure,” Mavuso outlines.
She says that, similarly, BLSA has undertaken efforts to confront the law and order challenges South Africa faces.
“Following the publishing of the Zondo report into State capture, we engaged the National Prosecuting Authority on how we could support capacity in dealing with the recommendations of the report.
“That led to a memorandum of understanding that allows BLSA to provide funding to deploy resources under the NPA’s direction, ensuring the independence of the prosecuting authority,” Mavuso highlights.
She adds that, through BLSA’s division Business Against Crime, it provides multiple sources of support to the police, including its Eyes and Ears campaign which is said to ensure that business, including private security companies, gathers information for the police and provides technical skills and resources to support police work.
“In these efforts, we are supporting the capacity of these institutions to deliver on their mandates,” Mavuso avers.
She says that while the rewards from these efforts could have been better, they were not fruitless.
“In January, 25 arrests were made in connection with sabotage, theft and fraud at Eskom, and several more were made last year. These were supported by the intelligence gathered from the various investigations De Ruyter oversaw, including, we understand, that partly funded by BLSA. In time, much more could be achieved from our intervention,” she adds.
“We have been attacked for our actions in backing De Ruyter in his mission to deal with criminality in Eskom. That is to be expected – this is not a fight that will go unchallenged. As BLSA, however, we will not shy away from a robust stance on organised crime and corruption, even more so when it puts dealing with the energy crisis at risk too.
“These efforts are always informed by the input our members provide me and our executive teams,” Mavuso says.