Independent social justice activism, including activism that holds business to account and exposes collusion, is good for business. Accountability, rule of law and resistance to arbitrary action by both government and the private powers is a way to ensure efficiency, predictability and genuine accountability in markets. Witness for example the role civil society organisations have played in the push-back against corruption and State Capture.
In October 2017 SECTION27, the human rights and social justice advocacy organisation that I lead, launched a corporate challenge. We wrote to over 100 CEOs of South Africa's top companies and asked them to invest up to a million rand in SECTION27. By doing so, we said, they would be "investing in constitutional values, social justice and activism for socio-economic rights". In particular, we said, they would be supporting campaigns to improve access to health care services and basic education.
Then we waited for responses.
One afternoon in early December, as I was sitting in the ostentatious and expensive foyer of one of the big five private law firms in Sandton, a space bedecked with paintings and fountains, an email from one of the big corporates we had written to flashed across my screen on its...