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SA's problem not resources but leadership - Mohale

Nov 11 2017 08:00
Carin Smith

Stellenbosch - Africa has been slow in rising and standing up economically not due to a lack of resources, but because of the type of leadership its people have chosen, Bonang Mohale, CEO of Business Leadership SA (BLSA) said on Friday.

"I remain an Afro-optimist," said Mohale at a BEN-Africa conference on ethics and energy in Stellenbosch. "Business often meets acts that are immoral, but not illegal. Leadership is at the centre of everything business does."

Mohale said South Africa's problems have nothing to do with a lack of raw resources, but are rather caused by the inability to plan, lead and organise.

"We inherited the capitalist system, but we refuse to manage it," he said. "Most businesses are rational and empirical."

He said he found it hard to understand why, in a country with such abundance of sun and wind, SA's energy focus was on renewables, rather than on "those things we can ill afford".

He said that SA finance ministers had, for example, lost their jobs for refusing to sign deals on nuclear power.

"We have to ask why and that makes me come back to the notion of leadership," he said. "Change is painful and transformation is hard work. But the pain of not changing must be more than the pain of change in order to get movement."

Promise of tomorrow

"The world would be a much better place if nobody cared about who takes the credit. Leadership requires some sort of compelling vision. We need some sort of a true north to understand the direction we will take," he said. 

"Leadership cannot just be about saying you have not broken a law. It is about ethics. Today in Africa people think a leader is someone who has many servants. If you get on a ship you ask where it is going before you put your faith in the captain's hands."

Mohale said leadership required courage.

"When days are dark somebody has to say there is light at the end of the tunnel. A leader can only do that if you are courageous about getting out of your comfort zone," he said.

"What we lack today is critical courageous conversations about things that matter. It is very important to stop wasteful government expenditure. We must make sure the bucket does not leak and to do that we need to stop the rot."

The BLSA CEO said the main three pillars of the group's strategy were inclusive economic growth and transformation; protection of key state institutions; and positioning SA businesses as national assets.

Transformation was key, he said. For instance, he said it was a "moral obligation" for Investec CEO Stephen Koseff to ensure he is succeeded by a black CEO.

"Business is a force for good. It provides jobs and pays taxes - two things the government needs. We are working very hard to define the fiscal cliff and then come up with an emergency economic recovery plan," he said.

"Our job is not just to say "bad, bad, bad", but to come up with solutions. That is what we have been doing since our first meeting with the president."

While Mohale said he believed that SA would be downgraded by ratings agencies on 24 November, he added that he nevertheless saw light at the end of the tunnel. 

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blsa  |  ben-africa  |  bonang mohale  |  state capture  |  sa economy  |  ethics  |  energy

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