Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has defended the right of business leader Reuel Khoza to criticise the government and has called for the controversy over his views to be transformed into a thorough debate on South Africa's economic policies.
He also said in a statement that the suggestion by ANC General Secretary Gwede Mantashe that Nedbank could lose government business over the criticism was "very worrying," adding: "This is a free and democratic society, where all of us, including business, have the right to criticise government and the governing party without being punished for it. I say, don't tackle the man, tackle the ball."
The full text of Archbishop Makgoba's statement follows:
Nedbank Chairperson Reuel Khoza has taken a brave stand in expressing some of the critical ethical and moral challenges facing South Africa today. As a citizen of a constitutional democracy, he is well within his rights to have raised his concerns, just as government ministers and the General Secretary of the ANC are within their rights to have responded robustly.
However, General Secretary Gwede Mantashe's statement in the New Age, that "One of the issues that must be discussed in earnest is whether banking with an institution that sees government as foolish and insane makes any sense," is very worrying.
This is a free and democratic society, where all of us, including business, have the right to criticise government and the governing party without being punished for it. I say, don't tackle the man: tackle the ball.
Business in South Africa has as much right as any of us, and indeed a responsibility, to play its role in achieving social cohesion through constructive engagement.
However, the ANC and contributors to the debate such as Minister Blade Nzimande also raise important issues which must not be lost amid the controversy. What is the ideal economic policy for South Africa, and why is this debate generating such anger? We need a broad open debate.
All of us need to seize this opportunity to raise our concerns, and together build a new consensus on economic policy. Let South Africans talk freely – no one should be afraid to express their opinions.