Several civil society organisations mobilised under the banner of Future South Africa to demonstrate outside the Sandton offices of international consultancy firm McKinsey and Company. Protesters indicated that multi-national conglomerates like KPMG and McKinsey were displaying grossly unethical conduct and were enabling corruption in South Africa. By IHSAAN HAFFEJEE.
About 50 people gathered outside the entrance to the office park where McKinsey South Africa is based on Thursday. Under the watchful eye of private security and a small police contingent, demonstrators shouted “McKinsey must fall” as they waved posters displaying the faces of Trillian Capital Partners CEO Eric Wood and McKinsey Managing Partner, Georges Desvaux.
Among those protesting was David Lewis from Corruption Watch. The non-profit organisation recently announced it would be pursuing corruption charges against McKinsey with the relevant US authorities.
“We think that there is evidence that McKinsey contravened the US’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. And so we are making a submission to the US Department of Justice and FBI to ask them to undertake a criminal investigation and if they conclude that the act was broken then they should prosecute McKinsey,” said Lewis.
He said the process involving the US authorities was a lengthy and complicated one but they were confident and determined to succeed in the matter. “They (the US Department of Justice) take their law seriously, unlike the South African authorities,” said Lewis in reference to the lack of criminal proceedings being instituted against those accused of State Capture.
Lewis said his organisation had taken this route of going to American authorities because confidence in South Africa’s criminal justice system was lacking. “For the moment we are concentrating on McKinsey as extensive resources are required for this legal undertaking. But we need to make a lesson of what happens to large companies when they conduct business in a corrupt manner.”
Neeshan Balton, Executive Director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, also lent his voice to the protest, lamenting the fact that ordinary South Africans would have to pick up the tab in the form of higher electricity prices due to the conduct of Eskom, Trillian and McKinsey.
“We have always held the view that for corruption to take place within the public sector it could only have been done with the collusion of elements in the private sector. We are now beginning to see evidence of various private sector entities who have been directly engaged in corruption or who have been aiding and abetting and covering it up through the kind of shoddy auditing work that we have seen,” said Balton.
A small contingent of protest leaders including Mandla Nkomfe, the FutureSA convenor, Kumi Naidoo, former head of Greenpeace, and Popo Molefe, former chairperson of the State-owned Enterprise the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), handed a memorandum of demands to representatives from McKinsey.
Photo: From left, Mandla Nkomfe, the FutureSA convenor, Kumi Naidoo, former head of Greenpeace, and Popo Molefe, former chairperson of Prasa, demonstrate outside the Johannesburg offices of International consultancy firm McKinsey and Company. Picture: IHSAAN HAFFEJEE
Among the demands was that the firm subject itself to an independent outside inquiry and that unlawful acts of employees who worked on the Eskom contract be reported to relevant authorities.
Representatives from McKinsey did not wait for the memorandum to be read out and retreated into the building without receiving the memorandum.
“This is typical of behaviour of people in big business,” said Naidoo. “Our message to McKinsey and to all other corporates collaborating in State Capture is that you can run but you cannot hide. If our courts here cannot sort you out because our prosecuting authority has been captured we will fight you in other legal jurisdictions,” said Naidoo, citing the example of UK-based PR firm Bell Pottinger as a warning to McKinsey and KPMG.
“Our protest against McKinsey is not going to stop,” he said.
Protest leaders said that a failure by McKinsey to respond positively to their memorandum would result in further civil disobedience action at McKinsey offices in Johannesburg and elsewhere. DM
Photo: Protesters gathered under the banner of FutureSA, a coalition of civil society groups, to demonstrate outside the Johannesburg offices of International consultancy firm McKinsey and Company. Picture: IHSAAN HAFFEJEE
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