South African businesses dread affect of widespread violence on investor confidence

South Africa's business community, fearful of the affect on investor confidence, is fast losing patience with the rampant crime rate while remaining hesitant over locking horns with the government.

South Africa's business community, fearful of the affect on investor confidence, is fast losing patience with the rampant crime rate while remaining hesitant over locking horns with the government.

Newspaper adverts from financial services provider PSG Group were published, urging President Thabo Mbeki to "show us you care" about crime in his yearly state of the nation speech this week. A firm of commercial lawyers, Van Huyssteens, also placed an advert in the Beeld newspaper yesterday voicing its grievances about crime.

First National Bank (FNB) backed down in the face of pressure from fellow members of the Business Leadership South Africa group, which felt that such a combative approach would only alienate the notoriously thin-skinned Mbeki.

But Mbeki's insistence that crime in a country where about 50 people are murdered daily is not out of control is being met with dismay in business circles.

South African Chamber of Business (Sacob) president Deirdre Penfold said that the message given out by Mbeki that crime was not out of control was "not a healthy one for attracting investors".

"Our concern is the cost to business and lack of feeling secure. From businesses' point of view the level of crime is high and something has to be done," she said.

In a bitter irony last week, Alan MacKenzie, a former chief executive of the Business Against Crime (BAC) organisation, was shot several times in an armed robbery.

BAC's current head Siphiwe Nzimande favours "a productive partnership" with government, but acknowledged that others were less patient.

"There might be some differences about how to deal with the problem. I understand that everyone is searching for reassurances that government leadership understands the affect and gravity of the crime challenge," he said.

"Productive partnering that develops effective strategies that help the government in its fight against crime is good. Such a partnership must seek sustainable holistic solutions to the crime problem," he said. - Sapa-AFP

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