Nozipho January-Bardill, executive director at Bardill and Associates and Tebello Chabana, senior executive for Public Affairs and Transformation for the Chambers of Mines. PHOTO: Mel Frykberg/ANA

JOHANNESBURG - Speakers at a business and human rights seminar struggled with a number of vexing questions when it came to the issue of the role of business in equality and development.

The two-day seminar, which was held by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) at the Capital Moloko Hotel in Sandton on Tuesday, saw human rights lawyers, businessmen and women, and NGOS come together to see what role the business community could play in fostering human rights.

Among the questions raised was whether companies be profitable while operating ethically?

If this was to be achieved, one issue which needed to be tackled, was the gender pay gap and the pay gap between management and workers which would require transparency of financial records against the current background of secrecy, especially in regard to mining companies.

It was agreed that some of the salaries taken home by mining management could not be justified on the grounds of productivity.

Discrimination against women and people of colour also needed to be addressed the speakers agreed.

Tebello Chabana, senior executive for Public Affairs and Transformation of the Chambers of Mines, said driving policies that involved more women in the mining industry was imperative.

Nozipho January-Bardill, the executive director of Bardill and Associates, pointed out that affirmative action had given her a chance in a country where the rights of women and blacks had historically been excluded.

Bardill also said that more women were needed in business as she expanded on how both government and businesses had colluded in shirking their responsibilities in real transformation while indulging in box ticking.

She also outlined that tackling practical issues, including the poor state of transportation infrastructure and enforcing a healthy fiscal environment, were requisite because it was the poor who bore the brunt of failures in these areas.

- African News Agency (ANA)