Friends & Friction: Expect Parliament’s fracas in a boardroom near you

2014-12-11 13:45

No, South Africa is not going to the dogs. What makes you uncomfortable is the rapid collapse of the patriarchal systems of leadership. Our customs are being challenged in ways we do not understand.

In order to make sense of the chaos rocking the corridors of power, you need to understand that the core of African society and leadership is monarchy. Any office bearer is the “chief” who represents the monarch. So we defer to leadership that is assumed to be all-knowing.

Take that culture and put it in a parliament that was ruled by Calvinism during the apartheid years, and the British throne before that, and you end up with a system that is oppressed by protocol.

But the youth is pushing us into a new paradigm that refuses to equate experience with intelligence. They demand accountability, and this is a shock to the chiefs. Remember, democratic South Africa was founded on forgiveness, which is in itself a form of impunity.

Ironically, the victims were punished.

We said nothing when Reverend Allan Boesak was charged for channelling funds to the liberation movement, yet the Boers who killed and maimed our people walked away scot-free.

There was vengeful and sardonic applause when Tony Yengeni was convicted of negotiating himself a discount, yet the same moralists remained silent when bosses of large corporations sucked freebies out of their suppliers daily. This state of affairs made government leaders feel that they were also entitled to the perks of power.

But change is insensitive, and has no respect for history or authority. If ever there was trickle-down effect, expect the recent fracas in Parliament to come to the boardroom near you. The old saying “shit rolls downhill” will soon dissipate as subordinates refuse to take responsibility for the mistakes of their superiors.

Instead, they will hold them accountable for the unintended consequences of their actions.

The African titles of respect such as “Bhuti” and “Ousie”, which have found their way into the workplace, will soon be challenged by younger staff members, who believe such titles confer undeserved authority and respect, especially to bad or incompetent bosses.

South African youth is all about resistance, and this time it is putting up resistance against corruption and lack of accountability in the same way it resisted Afrikaans as a medium of instruction, and won.

Some picked up stones, AK-47s, or musical instruments, and some disrupted meetings. In a nutshell, our youth is historically messy.

Our boardrooms need more young people if we are to see radical growth in the economy. We need people who will break the rules that have been set by those whose intention is to shackle the competition. Our greatness does not lie in

past philosophies but in new thinking and in systems yet unnamed.

As for those who feel besieged in their laager of fading power, they need to understand that their survival is in opening up and allowing their perceived enemy to come inside.

The time for insecurity is over.

Government needs open lines of communication with the opposition, just as white companies need black businesspeople in their corridors. The old need the young to keep their businesses relevant in this ever-changing landscape.

The young need to know the basics before they rewrite the rules that will create a better order their children and our grandchildren will inherit.

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