SA leaders are a big impediment to economic change

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Busi Mavuso
Busi Mavuso

The lack of decisive leadership from South Africa’s principals is a major impediment to transformation, according to Black Management Forum (BMF) managing director Busi Mavuso.

In an interview with City Press, Mavuso was critical of the ANC, saying that the governing party was not taking charge and was proving to be a problem.

“If you are the ruling party and have the power to make policies that can benefit the majority of the people in this country, 23 years later, why are we sitting where we are sitting?

"Why are we romancing this notion of transformation?

"Why are we not being more forceful to make sure that these white people understand that this thing needs to happen because the wealth that they got is ill-gotten?” she said, recalling a discussion the BMF had with the ANC about the matter.

“When you have power to influence things, do that. I don’t see the ANC doing that,” she added.

She charged that “the ANC is not the party that is going to deliver this country”.

“They have already failed dismally. The political party that is going to deliver true democracy in this country is yet to be formed.

“I don’t think it’s the EFF. I don’t think it’s the DA,” she said, suggesting that the #FeesMustFall movement might be best-placed to, in future, form an organisation that might bring about transformation.

Mavuso said part of the problem was that the deal that gave birth to democratic South Africa was the product of negotiations among unequal parties.

“My view, not the BMF’s view, is that the terms upon which this democracy was achieved were flawed,” she said.

On the recent Mining Charter quota, Mavuso said the consequence of calling for 30% black ownership of mining licences was the implication that 70% should be white-owned.

She said this was another example of government doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.

She accused corporate South Africa of not fully understanding the importance and business imperative of transformation.

Having started her career with a seven-year stint in the banking sector after matriculating as a 16-year-old, the challenges of finding one’s place in an untransformed environment is something Mavuso is not only passionate about but has had first-hand experience with.

The financial services sector is still considered one of the most untransformed industries in South Africa.

Mavuso said that transformation was not taken seriously in some areas of business and that in the Western Cape as well as in a number of big corporate companies, including KMPG, the reverse was true.

“Transformation is a business imperative. If the middle class grows then your business will be secure because they will afford [to buy] and not steal from it,” she said.

She said a more desirable economy would be one that had 7 million people dependant on social grants and 17 million taxpaying citizens instead of the current situation where 17 million South Africans depend on social grants and 7 million are taxpayers.

She admitted that the country would at some point need to exit the transformation agenda in pursuit of former president Nelson Mandela’s dream of a rainbow nation.

However, when asked how soon she thought that dream would be realised, Mavuso’s response was:

“Not in my lifetime, I am hoping it is going to be in my kids’ lifetime. But the way things are going in this country, it is not going to be in my kids’ lifetime either.

“We are supposed to put time frames to this because if it is going to take 24 years ... then it is no longer radical, it’s gradual,” she said, adding that transformation needed to be defined and regulated.

Being part of an organisation that has a history of close links with the ANC, Mavuso’s eloquence on transformation of the economy may just be the gospel needed to awaken the sleeping giant that BMF is sometimes considered.

She warned that the daily protests across the country were a sign that the centre was not holding and people were taking matters into their own hands.

Speaking to City Press in the organisation’s Johannesburg offices, the Soweto-born executive, who holds a master’s degree in business leadership from the University of SA, said it was crucial that the terms for transformation be set out by the country’s leaders.

“Whether we like it or not transformation in this country is going to come.

“We had better be smart enough as leaders to dictate the terms on which this transformation is going to happen because if we don’t set out the terms ourselves, then those terms are going to be dictated to us by the masses,” said Mavuso.

Mavuso is frank and realistic on how the road to transformation would not be an easy one and in fact blatantly says the lack of decisive leadership who act as if they are not in charge when they are was proving to be a problem.

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