Public interest litigation: a high-impact tool for responsible business

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Whereas many become despondent and hopeless at the levels of waste, mismanagement, and harms done by state actors, responsible businesspeople have established a mechanism through which to challenge the prevailing sense of inevitable failure.

Rather than to complain about state failure and harmful policy, Sakeliga was established as an outcome-focused entity with an unambiguous value proposition – impactful litigation to establish a healthy business environment stewarded by an independent and resilient – state-proof – business community. Sakeliga is a premier vehicle for businesspeople and organisations to create scalable solutions to state failure.

It may not be immediately clear why businesses and other commercial entities would resort to commercial litigation in the public interest. An all-too-common view is that businesses and businesspeople only care about personal profits.

This myopic view of entrepreneurs and businesspeople runs contrary to experience. As Adam Smith noted in the 17th Century, successful entrepreneurs tend to be those who constantly try to identify the needs and problems around them and seek to provide solutions.

But what happens when the problems to be solved are not tasks for individual entrepreneurs to address with their excellent products and services, but common problems hampering commerce and harm communities? Can businesses still provide a solution? We believe the answer is yes, when they organise their efforts and agree to build and maintain a favourable business environment. With Sakeliga, business leaders are working to generate answers to some of our society’s most pressing commercial challenges – threats to trade and property, infrastructure decay, and deteriorating security.

Commercial litigation in the public interest provides a means by which the business community in South Africa can resist state decay and harmful interference where possible, and a mechanism to buy time for building alternatives outside the state where necessary.

It is through this litigation vehicle that we have succeeded in opening the way to state procurement reform free of corrosive BEE requirements, how we blocked Eskom’s attempts to cut power off from paying end-users due to the failures of their municipality, and through which we are litigating to remove obstructions to private alternative electricity generation.

Commercial litigation in the public interest, therefore, not only complements the problem-solving activities of businesses, but it is an effective means by which commercial entities can be good stewards of the economy in contribution to the good of their communities.

Our funders and community play an indispensable role in these victories which stand as a testament to the impact which motivated and optimistic businesspeople can bring about when properly organised. With Sakeliga, businesspeople needn’t feel alone in tackling our most pressing common problems.

If you value our work but are not yet an active funder, help us spread the message by sharing it with your colleagues and friends. Or if you’d like to directly back our actions to create scalable solutions to state failure, then you can fund our activities and join the vital project of creating a freer and more prosperous business environment in the place we love.