The ways of a dinosaur; beyond the Marikana.
That South Africa is experiencing a rebellion today is, without doubt, due to dearth in leadership. A dire lack of vision and gross ineptitude from our leaders. Madiba rallied people towards reconciliation…his rallying cry was; a better life for all. Mbeki was for African renaissance and his rallying cry…I am an African. Malema (though dubious as it may seem) is for nationalisation his rallying cry… economic in our lifetime. What is President Zuma’s vision and ideals at this time when we need direction most, what is his rallying cry…is it U’mshini ‘wam? And of course what is the rallying cry of business…is it maximising the wealth of shareholders at the expense of the larger community?
Leadership without vision and ideals to drive that vision is indeed a futile exercise…more like a biblical runaway horse.
Marikana not only exposed this leadership crisis but it also laid bare socio-economic issues which were swept under the carpet in the hope that they may not resurface sooner and will thus need the next generation leadership to grapple with. That companies choose to employ agencies like Adcorp (whose stance on minimising labour costs at the expense of the welfare of workers is phenomenal) and the average economist Schussler (whose outrageous howlers on how the South African worker is pampered is well documented and followed religiously by business), instead of making use of human resource departments to deal with issues affecting their workforce is indicative of poor leadership and aloofness that is a fertile breeding ground for resentment in an otherwise brick and mortar industry like mining and many other South African industries which doesn’t, due to their repetitive nature, need that much ingenuity to oversee.
The inequalities and disproportionate earning of senior executives (some earning as though they discovered or invented their operations or better still invented the Facebook) bear testimony to the role of business in making ours the most unequal and volatile country to live in today. Furthermore not only does it do this, but the concomitant effect of this hands-off approach or leadership through agency can be seen to be a factor in the deterioration in family values. Family values are cultured in a structure called a family home. Thanks today to business and to a lesser, though not insignificant extent, government; we have an epidemic of dysfunctional three generation families. This is mainly because many, including those who are working, can ill afford this all important edifice.
Another issue which comes to mind when one reflects on the Marikana is education and development. It may seem, instead of educating its workforce and thereby positioning and conditioning employees for better prospects, companies will rather look outside, flashing their deep pockets, to entice some of the best brains for what is relatively a repetitive brick and mortar function which can be learned through proper training and development. The same applies to unions. Instead of undertaking and advocating development for its membership, they would rather act as reactionaries and are just content on increasing membership and collecting union fees just like some political parties are blissfully at ease collecting the vote of the illiterate.
For South Africa to function better and be rescued from this self destruction, we need transformational leadership. We need leadership that is at coal face and will always listen, with an ear to the ground, so as to be best positioned to deal with matters as they may arise. Transactional leadership, as happened with this cop-out style of leadership through agency has proven fatal and an escalation of commitment will prove to have consequence far-reaching than the Marikana will ever prove to be. We need business leadership that is creative and sensitive to socio-economic issues bedevilling our not so nascent anymore, democracy. We need leadership that will not only earn its perks from downsizing, hedging and gambling on derivatives and other risk aversion ( anti-business) tendencies but work towards productivity so as to absorb multitudes into the mainstream economy. This approach should be undertaken with a view to harmonising relations and to create better socio-economic conditions in our communities. Indeed…business has a pivotal role to play.
Mogosi Magabe (Mr)
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