Playing an active part in the political life of their local communities or at national level can be an intimidating ‘no go area’ for some small business owners for various reasons.
These can include not wanting to alienate customers by being associated with a particular ‘side’; fears of antagonising powerful political role players by saying the wrong thing; and to avoid being tainted with suspicions of corruption even when they are innocent.
Small business owners may therefore opt to make quiet financial contributions to political parties without publicly declaring their affiliations. Or they may allow industry bodies to speak on their behalf so that the views expressed are collective and cannot be traced to an individual.
The existence of the South African National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) demonstrates that interaction between businesses and political office bearers can be positive and constructive. NEDLAC is made up of representatives from organised business (represented by Business Unity South Africa), organised labour, government and community-based organisations. The purpose of NEDLAC is to facilitate cooperation amongst the different constituencies in the areas of monetary policy, labour market policy, trade and industrial policy, and development policy.
At the local or provincial level, small business owners can engage with political processes by, for instance, meeting with government officials to discuss issues that have a bearing on their businesses. These can be used as opportunities to get to know the officials, communicate the small business owners’ views, and to gain insight into the rationale behind proposed policies and regulations.
Although being involved in politics is not a bad thing, some lines do have to be drawn by small business owners when it comes to how they run their businesses. It may be prudent for small business owners to avoid discussing politics with their customers, suppliers and employees as this is often a divisive and contentious topic that could adversely impact relationships.
So regardless of how a small business owner intends to vote during elections or which political party they are a member of, the business should not be used as a vehicle to promote the small business owner’s views and carry out electioneering on behalf of certain political parties or individuals. Politics and business are not necessarily incompatible.
Rather, the issue is how small business owners who choose to do so can participate in politics within legal and ethical parameters, and always with a view to creating the best possible operating environment for their businesses.
Post By: by Fadzai Munyaradzi for SimplyBiz