Johannesburg - The Black Management Forum (BMF)’s membership of Business Unity South Africa (Busa) was a symptom of the disastrous view that management is a generic skill that can be switched at will between the private and public sectors, said SACP deputy leader Jeremy Cronin
In the latest issue of Umsebenzi, the SACP’s mouthpiece, Cronin launched an attack on the BMF’s involvement, until recently, in Busa and the feud over BMF representation in Busa’s leadership.
Cronin pointed out that more than 60% of the BMF’s members work in the public sector, including the public service and state-controlled corporations. This came to light during the BMF’s recent widely reported exit from Busa.
What on earth, he asked, were most of the BMF members doing in a business organisation such as Busa in the first place ?
The notion that managers in the public and the private sectors together form part of the business world is perverse, Cronin wrote in the Umsebenzi opinion piece.
Until fairly recently development-funding institutions were acting like private banks within the public sector, he said. Certain state-controlled enterprises had been shut down by managers because they were not "profitable" – regardless of those institutions’ importance for development.
A series of managers from the private sector had come came to tell the public sector it shouldn't do certain things.
He called to mind the failure of the South African Breweries chief executive, Meyer Kahn
, who had been seconded to the South African Police Service. And the disastrous period at South African Airways under the leadership of Coleman Andrews, who made a profit by selling SAA’s fleet of aircraft and then leased them with government money, said Cronin.
He also imputed the hostile and deplorable state of labour relations in the public sector, especially in the public service, to the same strategy.
Managers in the public sector, he said, who imagine they are running private corporations with a view to chasing profits are at the heart of soured labour relations in the public sector.
The generic attitude management attitude alters what should be a developmental state into a battleground between employer and employee, he said.
What is even worse is the tendency among a new generation of public sector managers to regard their jobs not as a vital, strategic responsibility, but as a short route to the private sector.
Cronin said there is nothing illegal about people moving between public and private sector, but the traffic between these two sectors holds an inherent danger of corruption.
“Spear-throwing” is one of the creative terms used to express this reality. It refers to managers (and politicians) in the public sector who are using their positions to create future business opportunities for themselves. They resign and go and pick up the spear they previously threw out, he said.
Public sector core values should differ entirely from those of the private sector. A progressive forum for public sector managers, as well as public sector unions, should concern itself with the paramount question of how to contribute to transforming the community, he said.
BMF president and chief spokesperson for the Cabinet Jimmy Manyi
is widely criticised for the double role he is playing.
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