Social justice in South Africa: law and the role of business
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The far reaching and devastating effects of apartheid in South Africa, has burdened the nation with “unacceptably high levels of poverty, illiteracy and other forms of social and economic inequality” (Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008: Preamble). In view of the ravages of discrimination, particularly on the basis of race and gender, equality and the prevention of discrimination have played a significant role in post-apartheid South Africa. Clearly, apartheid resulted in discrimination in almost every aspect of social, political and economic life. The impact extended from much of the population being prevented from fair opportunities for business ownership and management and securing senior jobs, as well as obtaining access to goods and services. Many businesses were closed to them and instead, separate and inferior facilities were provided. Further, workplace discrimination was supported by the law. Hence, with the adoption of the 1996 constitution, there has been much discussion and debate about correcting these discriminatory practices and improving the socio-economic situation of the disadvantaged. Since much of these inequalities were as a result of unjust legislation from the past, it is not surprising that the attainment of the ideals of equality and a fair and just society has been directed towards the state. Clearly, the state had to carry much of the responsibility in removing the unjust legislation and introducing measures to prevent inequalities in the future and to redress injustices of the past. However, the attainment of the ideals of a society free of discrimination and injustice is not attainable without the application of such ideals to the private sector, i.e. individuals and business. This paper investigates the role of business in post-apartheid South Africa and its role in economic and social transformation. It examines the initiatives in place in terms of which business has a role to play, particularly, the prevention of discrimination by the business sector, Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE), corporate social investment, consumer protection, employment equity and the promotion of fair business practices. This paper uses a descriptive approach to reveal the social responsibility of business in a transforming society. It concludes that the impact of these initiatives for business in South Africa is far-reaching and that business has a significant role to play in the growth and success of the economy, and more particularly in the transformation of the historically disadvantaged communities. However, the initiatives in place have not had the expected result.
Reddy, K. 2015. Social justice in South Africa: law and the role of business, Athens: ATINER'S Conference Paper Series, No: BLE2015-1457.