Picture: Noni Mokati

Johannesburg - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday said companies had to be aware of the devastating impact anti-competitive behaviour has on the lives of the poor.

"When corporate greed gives rise to price fixing, market division and collusive tendering, governments and citizens alike become poorer," Ramaphosa said.

He was addressing the business sector at the Competiton Commission's 11th Annual Competition Law, Economics and Policy Conference held at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Illovo, Johannesburg.

Ramaphosa said when organised cartels steal from public resources and unsuspecting consumers, they break trust, undermine social cohesion and destroy lives.

"In a country like South Africa, the attitude, conduct, and actions of corporate citizens can be decisive in lifting the majority of our people out of poverty. They can reduce inequality or deepen it."

He added: "Anti-competitive behaviour prevents economies from ever realising their potential."

 Ramphosa who pointed out that the country had inherited a racially skewed economy with a few dominant players owing to Apartheid.

"From the advent of democracy, we have argued that competition policy has a pivotal role to play in redressing the injustices of the past... Black South Africans are for the most part excluded from exercising control over the most important economic levers," Ramaphosa said.

Alluding to the policies created by the Commission he said one of the purposes of the Competition Act was to facilitate radical economic transformation that is both inclusive and sustainable.

"We must measure the effectiveness of our competition policy by the extent to which it contributes to undoing the racial and gender dimensions of economic concentration. Competition policy in South Africa cannot be limited merely to the promotion of market efficiency. It must be an instrument to effect fundamental economic and social change," he said.

He called for the economy to be open to greater ownership by a number of South Africans, including black small medium enterprises.
"We must create space for black companies and SMEs to flourish," the deputy president said.

Competiton Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele speaks during the conference in Illovo. Picture: Noni Mokati

Competiton Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said the work of establishing and building competition authorities has over the years has yielded results.

Ramaphosa said as such, the Commission had made strides in uncovering scrupulous practices by certain companies adding so far up cases under investigation include 310 instances of collusion involving 61 companies. 

Some of the successes made by the Commission include exposing cartels involved fixing bread and maize meal prices among other things.

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