|For the CEO's desk|
Thanks to our self-serving leaders, the world no longer looks on South Africa with the same respect and affection as it previously did. By Bryan Hattingh
Whist some remarkable things were achieved just before and after 1994, we have fallen desperately short of what could have been.
This is because of short-sightedness, small-mindedness, lack of understanding and adherence to the value of the bigger picture and pervasive pursuit of self interest. Massive realignment is vital and long overdue, along with creations of opportunity for employment, wealth creation, education and upliftment of all people, particularly those who had been previously disadvantaged. An inordinate number of people in positions of influence and power have adopted a philosophy and attitude of “take” rather than “give” with many remaining outside in the cold.
Some myths have been busted.
• The world would always see South Africa as its darling;
• The world would continue to pour an unending stream of funds and investment into the country; and
• South Africa should be given special dispensation.
The knock-on effect of this has been the arrogant and puerile belief that the world owes us a living. Nothing in life comes without a price and the illusion that we can defer payment and take short cuts to overnight sensation has unexpected consequences. We accrue interest and it compounds with life having the uncanny knack of calling in the debt when we have forgotten that we took out the loan and when we least expect it.
The dream was for a non-racial, reconciled and integrated South Africa where the collective and complimentary attributes and assets of its cosmopolitan populace could be galvanised into our
being a meaningful player on the world stage.
The levels of nepotism and corruption are out of control. Scrambling for deals in which the quality of delivery is in too many cases sadly lacking, has drastically retarded the development and growth of the country. The advancement of education and healthcare, which are to a great extent in disarray, and an effective reduction in unemployment have fallen way short of the mark.
The Draconian labour laws and continued demands of trade unions and labour have cost the country millions of days of productivity and lost revenue and taxes. Cries for the nationalisation of mines and legitimisation of land grabs greatly deter international investors and results in their redirecting their interests elsewhere.
The arrogant attitude and behaviours of many South African businessmen and diplomats is resulting in an increasing number of business people in neighbouring countries, and beyond, becoming allergic to dealing with them.
More than ever we need to galvanise the local talent and leadership in business and government to be truly competitive on the world stage. Introducing laws that remove freedom of speech and free press directly contravenes the Constitution and serves to further tarnish the image and reputation of the country. Government trying to harness and restrict the Constitutional Court adds further fuel to the fire.
The recent establishment of the Black Business Council, with its positioning itself as the de facto representative for determining business strategy and policy with government in South Africa, is both unconstitutional and discriminatory. The merits of a legitimate body to take on this mantle are without question. However the suggestion that an institution labelled the Black Business Council is representative of all groups and parties, is ludicrous. A title such as the South African Business Council, the National Business Council, the People’s Business Council or something similar seems way more appropriate.
The statement that white businesses are welcome to apply for membership is nothing short of patronising. There is no problem at all with groups or associations calling themselves whatever they wish, but when you position yourself as the sole and single representative for determining business policy in the country you cannot afford to be discriminatory or exclusive. What is more concerning than naming formalities is the underlying spirit and attitude.
This year’s school leavers were all born in, or post, 1994. What sort of a stage are we setting for them? There is no question as to the heinous, incorrigible and punitive nature of Apartheid and the impact it had on so many of the people of South Africa, but small-minded pursuit of greed, self-enrichment and short-term gratification at the expense of all and everyone else is an outrageously poor successor.
It is time for the perpetrators of these behaviours to get over themselves and for those who truly seek to create an inclusive and sustainable economy with enrichment for all South Africans, to have zero tolerance for leaders of disrepute in whatever their capacity, and ensure that we are a voice to be heard and reckoned with.
Standing in comfortable and self gratifying corners of time whilst we watch the world move on and have our land of hope and dreams potentially stumble and fall due to our dalliance and decadence is intolerable. May the weeding out and eviction of leaders, who are loudmouthed, pernicious and vexatious, continue at an increased rate.
Bryan Hattingh is the Founding Executive of leadership solutions group Cycan, www.cycan.co.za.