Government meddling sets black execs up to fail at SOE 'slaughterhouses' - BMF

The Black Management Forum has released a statement urging black professionals not to apply for leadership positions at South Africa’s state-owned entities, saying government interference at these companies was setting black leaders up for failure.

The statement, penned by BMF president Andile Nomlala, said government interference did not allow accounting officers of the country’s beleaguered parastatals a chance to lead them out of their respective quagmires on their own terms.

The statement comes after the resignations of South African Airways group CEO Vuyani Jarana, Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe, and Transnet ending the contract of acting group CEO Tau Morwe.

It was Jarana’s four-page resignation letter which gave insights into possible tensions between accounting officers and Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan’s new term, as Jarana’s reasons for quitting included restrictive relations with the shareholder representative.

In the statement Nomlala implored black executives not to apply for senior appointments within state-owned companies until the government developed a clear governance framework for these institutions.

"It has come to our attention that other black leaders and executives are on the verge of also submitting their resignation letters due to intolerable levels of political interference and the failure of the government to fully support them and address the capital structures and funding models of their struggling SOCs," Nomlala said.

Nomlala said the BMF would like to have an urgent meeting with the government to address these issues. He said state-owned companies were a long way from the time of independent leadership under the likes of former Nebank chair Reuel Khoza, former Eskom chief Thulani Gcabashe, and Peter Matlare, known for senior roles at Tiger Brands and Absa.

"SOCs have become a slaughterhouse for skilled black leaders and executives whose reputations get tarnished because of factors that are beyond their control," said Nomlala.

Nomlala said government should consider reforms such as streamlining the number of ministers each entity should account to, clearly defining the role of the minister in oversight, facilitating fast decision making, clearer funding models and more opportunity for professionals to lend their expertise to these ailing entities.

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