The hard talk was from panelist Former Finance Minister Trevor Manual, Sipho Pityana Chairman of Izingwe Holdings and the Board of Directors of AngloGold Ashanti and Onelogix and Mike Brown Chief Executive of Nedbank Group Limited facilitated by GIBS . It started with a key acknowledgement by Mr Trevor Manual that the socio-economic policy is broken seen by what’s happening at NEDLAC, the lack of intent for government to problem solve and take a stand on ethics. Mr Pityana added that business need to do an introspection and understand that they are not playing their part in driving ethics seen in the fact that corporations are beneficiaries of corruptions through various forms e.g. BEE partnering. By also the fact that majority of black professionals are in the government sector and business need to start recognizing black professional as meaningful players in the private sector. When it comes to ethics with the current “Gupta leaks” business need a TRC for Business to talk about how it has messed up and benefited from corruption. It was clearly highlighted that the lack of ethical government is getting business to almost get way with what they do. Mr Manual was straight to point that there lack of ethical leadership in government where it seems like nothing matters anymore does not leave much role models for business to aspire to. It almost doesn’t matter anymore to government and is then allowing business to get away with too much. In his own words “An Ethical Government will be able to enforce an ethical society” Mr Brown added that ethics in business need to be woven in the fabric of the business through its company policies and the role as CEO’s play to be in touch with that fabric.
Some other key takes from the speakers were that business is not a homogeneous entity. Even in the black business we still find fractions which make it difficult to speak in one voice to government. If we still find people waiting 7 years to get a certificate which enables them for employment because they cannot find in-service training then business is failing our society. Of the 3 sectors Government, Labour and Business there is clear understanding of what labour stands for. It is about time that business do an introspection and truly understand its contribution to ethics and poverty in our country. Each business need to have a clear understanding of all aspects and processes of their organisations and what they stand for and promote. Decide where it stand i.e. what it is prepared to tolerate and not. After taking that stand, then stand up and speak-up, voice that stand and not continue to watch and wait. If the difficult discussion with government of difference in opinion business is not willing to voice it is then pointless to even meet with government. A question asked by Ncebakazi Nompula of GEE Solution was “What does business really stand for and if they honestly believe what they stand for they can articulate and have success when meeting with government to get South Africa where it should be”. The level of belief (knowing in the past it has always been about we will come back to you and government acting ignorant to certain matters) will determine their conviction to stand-up to government. Mr Mike Brown, Group CEO of Nedbank was unequivocal about the fact that business stands for success and sustainable economy of this country but was hesitant that in the next 6 months their stand as business will be heard.
The question is….Is there hope for South Africa? How quickly can we get out of this mess? Are you as a business leader willing to take a stand and voice it out?