Editorial Comment Lead South Africa

CEO SleepOut: a pantomime with little taste

A bunch of grown up millionaires sleeping out in the cold. My oh my, how they care, right? The sponsors of this terrible PR slap in the face of the poor are either just oblivious or arrogant.

A bunch of very wealthy men and women sleeping outside, in expensive thermals to keep their bones warm, to raise awareness about the plight of the homeless and whatever else they want to raise awareness about. The abject poverty and disgusting conditions that millions of South Africans live in does not need a big fancy event to raise awareness. It is in your face daily. Travel between Ellis Park and Hillbrow on any evening and watch the people making a place for themselves on the cold, hard, unforgiving concrete of a city built on exploitation.

Charity has a place. We won’t try and argue here against charity. But what is raising millions to support homeless charities going to do to solve the problem? It is wonderful that people donate money to feed and keep street kids warm – that’s the least we should do with our humanity. But how is a bunch of rich people, turning the daily existence of millions into a fun outing, a tourist gathering, a PR extravaganza, going to change the lives of millions?

The programme should be the CEO ShareOut. Commit to radical transformation of your own organisations, a tangible business plan of meaningful upliftment and sharing of the pie with the people on the other side of the fence. And we say fence deliberately, because no doubt the CEOs will have the privilege of private security and police to keep them safe, unlike the millions who sleep out every night. The CEO ShareOut should take the lead in showing progressive South Africans everywhere that the private sector has a modicum of dignity left and takes the lead in radical economic transformation, or if that phrase is too hardcore for your putty ears, then call it inclusive growth. Stop blaming and waiting for the government – if you actually give a flying banana about this country take the lead and share your wealth.

The time has come for us to call out publicity stunts for what they are. Carry on donating to charities, rich people, and the children will still be fed. But it makes average men and women sick watching you pat each other on the back in your little play-play outing, your pantomime of reality. Make a meaningful change and radically transform the corporate sector that has made you wealthy.

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