Amcu said that it has written to Bheki Cele and Gwede Mantashe, requesting them to urgently intervene in the violence at Sibanye-Stillwater. 
Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency (ANA)
JOHANNESBURG - You would be pardoned for thinking that corporates, both domestic and transnational, have never heard of the imperative of ethical conduct.

They have no qualms about generating profits in the midst of abject and grinding poverty, without any compunction to spare a thought for the lives of those who are affected by profit extraction in their environment, in the name of so-called foreign direct investment.

So long as the numbers are good in terms of return on investment, it becomes business as usual.

For those like the Marikana survivors, the Amadiba/Xolobeni community and others who live next to enterprises - not only in the country, but also in the whole of southern Africa, and the continent for that matter - they are prisoners of hope.

Hope that the meagre wages they receive will one day amount to something substantial.

Hoping that somehow, some day, they too will be able to secure decent accommodation with water and electricity and sanitation and be able to leave an inheritance for their children.

Hoping that they too as farmworkers and farm dwellers on rich wine farms, somehow, some day will have a stake in such farms and be able to send their children to decent schools and university, so that they do not live the same lives, breaking their backs under the scorching sun or in wintry weather with snow and no protective clothing.

Tragically, these prisoners of hope are fed hopes by politicians at each election time.

More and more promises are made, but are never fulfilled. Another round of election comes and it starts all over again.

But as the Amcu (Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union) militants have shown, there comes a time when even the most timid will cast away the blanket of timidity and assert their human dignity.

Their eyes are opened and they realise that their backs are against the wall; they must stand and resist.

Who would have thought, in 2013, when the union started its demand for R12500 a month, that this would be a reality in 2018?

The words of the late Mexican-American farmworker, labour leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez ring true when he said:

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed.

"You cannot uneducate the person who has learnt to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future and the future is ours."

Whatever the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in terms of wiping out some jobs, one of the positives is that it is also levelling the playing fields.

The same power wielded by corporates in terms of connectivity is also within the reach of workers, who are now mobilising more, with movements like #Total ShutDown.

They are not only saying: “Enough is enough”, but are also putting forward new prototypes that the government and the private sector must pay heed to, sooner than later.

Surely there must be another way?

It starts with a generous spirit and generous hearts. Hearts that know that business cannot be the heartless accumulation of wealth without regard for the conditions of people, especially the weak and vulnerable among us.

Such a heart in shareholders of these companies will make sure that company executives find ways of making life better for employees first, and stakeholders as well.

As Africa we bring to the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Artificial Intelligence the spirit of Ubuntu.

Dr Mgoqi is the chairperson of AYO Technology Solutions. He writes in his personal capacity.

BUSINESS REPORT