No excuse for boycott by black professionals of state entities - new BLSA head

Despite the view that many beleaguered parastatals are beyond redemption, it would be unconscionable to expect black professionals to withhold their skills and knowledge by refusing to lead them, according to newly appointed Business Leadership South Africa CEO, Busisiwe Mavuso.

Mavuso was appointed to BLSA at the beginning of the month, taking over from former head Bonang Mohale. 

Speaking to Fin24 on Tuesday, she responded to remarks from Black Management Forum president Andile Nomlala calling for black professionals to spurn offers to lead South African state-owned entities. 

Mavuso was head-hunted by BLSA from BMF, where she had served as managing director. She was appointed chief operating officer of BLSA, before assuming the role as CEO.

Set up to fail? 

Nomlala's statement urged 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.

Mavuso said BLSA would continue to encourage senior black professionals to assume leadership in both private and public companies, despite the troubles faced by many SOEs.

"We have unfortunately had one too many examples of SOEs doing this [interfering with] to black professionals," she told Fin24.

"I don't think they [entities] seek to do this on purpose, but I don't agree with the BMF.

"If we say we are on the reconstruction path, we need all hands on deck and all shoulders to the wheel," said Mavuso.

Mavuso said while many state-owned entities have been hollowed out, in order to be repaired, South Africa needed its black professionals to take the lead. She said to fail to address the crisis would be to neglect South Africa's biggest sovereign risk.

"To call on people to hold back in this critical time can't be right. I don't think withholding our skills when our country needs them the most is the responsible leadership call to make," Mavuso said.

Private sector transformation

Mavuso acknowledged that more work was needed to ensure that leadership in the private sector was more reflective of South Africa's demographics, especially where it related to race and gender representation among CEOs and directors of companies.

"We need to look at the bigger picture in terms of what we want to achieve. Where 80% of the population is black, it can't be that we don't participate. Mind you, when we re-positioned ourselves in 2016, many of those who committed to realising transformation were actually BLSA member companies," she said.

Mavuso said while BLSA and its member companies fared better at advancing racial and gender transformation than the national average, the business structure would not be satisfied until greater representivity was achieved.

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