PICS: Critics won't bring down the CEO Sleepout, says Makhura | Fin24

PICS: Critics won't bring down the CEO Sleepout, says Makhura

Jul 29 2016 09:27
Lameez Omarjee

Johannesburg - South Africa can be a great country if government and business work together, according to Gauteng Premier David Makhura. He was speaking at the CEO Sleepout at the Nelson Mandela Bridge on Thursday night.

“Government blames business for not doing enough and businesses blame government for not doing enough. The CEO Sleepout can bridge that gap,” said Makhura. “If we point fingers, we will get nowhere.”

More than 100 executives from different industries, university students and matric pupils spent the night on the Nelson Mandela Bridge for the education fundraiser. Across Gauteng 41 companies, 10 colleges and universities and 60 schools joined remotely in the “Sympathy Sleepout”, according to social activist and chief ambassador of CEO Sleepout 2016, Yusuf Abramjee. 

The sleepout presented an opportunity for CEOs to find out what they can do to make the country better and to share what government could do to take the country forward, he said.

Makhura also mentioned that those criticising the initiative from the sidelines are doing nothing to bring about change. Makhura said it was important for him to return to the second sleepout despite criticisms that the inaugural CEO Sleepout in 2015 was held in Gwen Lane, Sandton.

“I am wearing boots that are not sexy, but they are built for endurance because the road is long. As long as there are problems in society, I don’t care if people are criticising us,” he said.

Ahead of the sleepout, protests against the event broke out. Some citizens also expressed their disapproval of the idea on social media.

The CEO Sleepout 2015 raised over R27m for Boys and Girls Town. By 20.40 on Thursday night R31m had already been pledged and the target set was R40m. The CEO Sleepout is a depiction of “Ubuntu in action”, said Abramjee. He added that the message to the critics was that they would continue doing good. “Nothing will stop South Africa going forward. South Africa will rise.”

Matric student Thokozane Khumalo (left) and university student Ditshego Madopi (right) play chess. (Photo: Lameez Omarjee)

How the CEOs can bridge inequality

One of the challenges South Africa is facing is inequality, said Sello Moloko, chairperson of Alexander Forbes. “The idea that every CEO should be socially aware and conscious is important.” The sleepout is an opportunity for CEOs to get a sense of the real world. “It is an opportunity to do good, other than just putting money on the table.” Criticisms will always be there, but this is one of the biggest fundraisers we have seen. The capital applied can have a “multiplier” effect.

The only way to bring about sustainable social change is if what a business does is good for society, said Nedbank CEO, Mike Brown. The business model and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives should be integrated. “They should contribute to the greater good of society, while at the same time serve customers and make profits for shareholders.”

When it comes to bridging the gap between exorbitant pay and the earnings of entry-level workers, Brown said companies need to evaluate if they are paying people appropriately for what they do, the value they create and the experience they have. “In any company diversity is important. Especially in a diverse society, businesses must reflect the society in which they operate,” he said.

“Diversity is a competitive advantage for business,” added Nicky Newton-King, CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Companies should “seek out” diversity in their recruitment processes, this will feed into leadership. To bridge the inequality gap, she said that businesses need to focus on how to achieve inclusive growth. “The benefits of a business should be equitably shared among all stakeholders.” The growing Gini Coefficent is unacceptable, she said, explaining that by getting more people working can help close that gap.

In response to criticisms that the CEO Sleepout is not a reflection of the real plight of the homeless, Newton-King said that the point of the initiative is to raise social awareness and funds for a social cause. She said it was successful in doing that. “People would not have come together for a single cause otherwise, outside of what they normally do.”

Mia Labuschagne (left), Jeruya Dildar (middle) and Khanyisile Kweyama (right) having "sleepout" soup. (Photo: Lameez Omarjee)

Khanyisile Kweyama, CEO of Business Unity South Africa (Busa), said it was important to be at the sleepout because people would be engaging at a different level. “People share ideas more comfortably around a camp fire than in a boardroom.”

Mia Labuschagne, a student at the University of Pretoria and representing law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, said that being aware of the needs of your community at the start of your career will influence how you approach issues going forward. “To be socially responsive, you need to be socially aware.”

During the night, Makhura, Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau and other CEO Sleepout ambassadors made visits to the sympathy sleepouts happening across Johannesburg, before returning to the bridge to sleepout. 



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