In addition to planting the seed of manifold human tragedies, South Africa’s HIV/AIDS epidemic – one of the most serious anywhere – is challenging the roles and function of the country’s core economic and political actors. Conventionally, for example, we would expect the government to spearhead the national response to the pandemic, yet the South African government has been curiously remiss in this regard. Conversely, in 2002 the South African mining company Anglo American (which over the years has been the target of much criticism for its labour practices) announced that it would provide antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to its employees. It seems a strange reversal of roles, for business to take on health and welfare functions that are conventionally expected of the state, inviting speculation that this might presage a ‘change in the meaning of government’ in South Africa (Rhodes 1996: 652). There is much here that is congruent with Rhodes’ deﬁnition of governance, as self-organizing inter-organisational networks – in this case, companies – which have reacted in a variety of ways to government’s conspicuous failure on this issue. These networks are, Rhodes tells us, a ‘pervasive feature’ of service delivery in societies where the state has hollowed out. While the government’s stance on the epidemic has attracted much attention – as has civil society’s mobilisation around this issue – less academic attention has been paid to the varied reactions of the country’s business community. This paper seeks to address that gap, focusing on the role of the private sector in the governance of HIV/AIDS-aﬀected South Africa, and the issues and problems arising from this. This chapter explores a number of interrelated sets of questions. First, how
has the South African private sector responded to the country’s epidemic? Here it is important to disaggregate ‘business’ as a category, as responses have varied widely within the sector, across time, across ﬁrm size and across sectors of the economy. Second, how can we account for these variations? The chapter concludes by considering the capacity of business to respond eﬀectively to the epidemic and the limitations of both public and private sector-based responses. The reader should be warned that what follows is based on only preliminary research. Deﬁnitive conclusions concerning the various hypotheses await further carefully structured comparative ﬁeldwork.