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CAS Seminar: Maha Rafi Atal, University of Cambridge: Corporate Social Responsibility and Political Control in Kenya and South Africa

When Mar 13, 2017
from 05:00 PM to 07:00 PM
Where Room S1, ARB
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Businesses today often serve as governing authorities, providing public
services and maintaining public order. The assumption of state-like
functions serves a pragmatic purpose but as local communities become
reliant on business for basic needs, businesses acquire political
responsibilities. Why do firms take on these responsibilities, and how,
if at all, do these practices achieve political legitimacy? This paper
compares corporate service provision for employees and local communities
at two company sites – the Lonmin platinum mines in North-West Province,
South Africa and the Del Monte pineapple plantation in Thika, Kenya. It
finds that both companies use service provision to nullify resistance to
their core business practices. While at Del Monte, workers, communities
and regulators are treated as distinct sources of resistance with
programs and policies tailored to each, at Lonmin, company programs
directly exploit political disagreements between and among workers,
communities and the state about the meaning of post-apartheid
transformation. While workers and local residents in both cases regard
particular company governance practices as illegitimate, they
nevertheless see companies, alongside or instead of the state, as
governing authorities with the responsibility to provide for their
welfare. This partial legitimacy allows Lonmin and Del Monte to protect
their existence as companies with colonial roots in postcolonial
societies.