On the day that it is revealed that Robert Mugabe’s thugs have murdered four opposition (Movement for Democratic Change) activists (whose bodies have been found near Harare, after being abducted), it’s appropriate to reflect how culpable big business interests are in the continuing Zimbabwe tragedy. True there are plenty of other guilty parties (how does South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki sleep at night one wonders). But let’s reflect on the corporate world for a moment.

Back in the 1970s British Prime Minister Edward Heath called a Southern African adventurer Tiny Rowland of Lonhro “the unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism”. Rowland was motivated by greed and personal ambition and he was able for a time to ride roughshod over public opinion and business principles. Around the same time Shell conspired to break British sanctions against Rhodesia and, with impunity, keep essential oil flowing to Iain Smith’s illegal regime. Whilst the rest of the world was giving South Africa’s racist regime a cold shoulder Lonhro, Shell, and countless other corporations, continued to do business with the devil.

If you think that these memories are just tales of a bygone age think again. Take the corporation set up and managed by the ex England cricketer Phil Edmonds. A brilliant expose by the London Sunday Telegraph recently revealed just how intimately involved Edmonds and his piratical crew are with Robert Mugabe’s junta in Zimbabwe. And without a scintilla or irony or regret Edmonds says that his company, Camec (Central African Mining and Exploration Company) believes that “investing in Zimbabwe at this early stage is the best way to help the people of Zimbabwe while also generating shareholder value”.

Corporations like Lonhro, Shell and Camec do what they do because the business drivers tell them that it is potentially profitable and because their executives will have huge bonuses as a result. At the same time they promote the hypocritical lie that they are “corporately responsible”. The behaviour is repulsive – but the hypocrisy is even worse. Do they really expect us in future to believe a thing that they say?

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