Businesses losing faith as crime soars

Thomas McLachlan

Thomas McLachlan

Crime has reached a "crisis level" and is beginning to deteriorate business optimism, according to a report released yesterday by Grant Thornton International.

The auditing firm's 2007 International Business Report found that nearly every business of the 200 surveyed had been affected by crimes such as housebreaking, hijacking and violent crime.

The survey was released just a day after anti-crime group Business Against Crime's national project coordinator, Alan MacKenzie, was shot during a housebreaking attempt in Cape Town. At the time of going to press MacKenzie was reported to have been in a critical condition.

"Eighty-four percent of medium to large privately held businesses in South Africa report that they, their staff or families of staff have been affected by personal contact crime over the past 12 months," Grant Thornton national chairman Leonard Brehm said.

At least 32 percent of businesses said they had "lost staff" to violent crimes, which included death and emigration to other countries.

Brehm said that if nothing was done to solve the crisis, the country would lose skilled employees who were fleeing the country.

This was the second year running that the country recorded a drop in general optimism with the index coming in at 74percent.

Last year's study found that 80percent of businesses were optimistic about conditions, compared with 84percent in 2005.

South Africans, however, are still more optimistic than most countries with the global average coming in at 45percent this year. This is mainly on the back of the current economic boom that the country is enjoying as well as high hopes for the 2010 World Cup.