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Cape Town - Two out of three South African business executives say they, their staff or immediate families have had their personal safety threatened in the past year.

This was an increase of 14 percentage points from the same period the year before.

The latest Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) tracker survey for the fourth quarter of 2013, which provides insight into the views of scores of businesses, was released yesterday.

Business executives listed crime, a shortage of skilled workers, political instability and poor provision of services by the government as factors which hampered growth and stability.

The survey revealed that the number of business executives who had been affected by a threat to security had increased by 20 percentage points since 2011.

“Poverty is well known to be the core cause of criminal activity – South Africa’s struggling economy, weak currency and striking unions no doubt directly impact this climbing figure,” said Andrew Hannington, chief executive of Grant Thornton Johannesburg.


Those in KwaZulu-Natal topped other provinces as most affected by crime, ahead of Gauteng, Western Cape and Eastern Cape.

Business owners felt the impact of crime in their wallets, with 76 percent having indicated they had to fork out for additional security.

They also pointed to decreased productivity and motivation among staff members as other indications of the financial burden of crime.

Over-regulation, red tape, and a shortage of skilled workers were listed as key constraints to business growth.

“This is not just a local concern, though. The IBR research reveals that South African statistics are on a par with the global data relating to a lack of skills and over-regulated business environments.”

Another worry for business owners was government service delivery, with 59 percent saying their businesses had been negatively affected.

Their greatest concern was the provision of basic utilities including water and electricity, while potholes and defective traffic lights also affected business.

One in three business owners said political uncertainty was affecting future business decisions, with many delaying investment decisions and working to improve their BEE status.

Optimism for business prospects in South Africa for the next year improved from the last quarter, when it hit its lowest level, at 18 percent, to 40 percent for the fourth quarter of last year. - Cape Times