OPINION | Develop ethical, capable managers for growth

South Africa is referred to as developmental state. Fundamentally, a developmental state involves government having a role in the economy with its main focus being to realise the highest economic growth potential and facilitate economic progress.

This is done by ensuring that the necessary resources are in place – such as the availability of capacity (skills, systems and human capital resources) and by attracting and retaining the necessary capacity. In this, a culture of service is a central concern.

MEC of finance and economic development, Oscar Mabuyane.
MEC of finance and economic development, Oscar Mabuyane.
Image: Michael Pinyana

Post-democracy the condition, financial affairs and ability of our SOEs have become uncertain due to weak leadership and poor governance. We have instability in our SOEs at board level, and there are vacancies for key positions as well as poor monitoring and oversight of procurement processes. Even the Auditor General is worried about the survival of our SOEs, largely because wasteful expenditure has been so rampant. While there has been a significant improvement in our SOEs in terms of clean audits, a lot of work still needs to be done.

Weak leadership and poor governance of our SOEs has contributed to South Africans being increasingly confronted by high levels of poverty, crime and the pandemic of unemployment. In this, black people continue to be disproportionately affected by socio-economic ills.

In order to prevent the further unraveling of our society, I would like to challenge those occupying senior executive positions in our SOEs to ensure they fulfil their prime obligation – which is to run solid and sustainable companies that provide shareholders with value and returns.Generally speaking, there is a need to develop a new kind of leadership, one equipped with the functional skills and the personal capabilities necessary to lead and drive the economy.

Statistically and qualitatively, our transformation programme requires new ways of thinking if we are to sufficiently respond to the critical shortage of business acumen and black leadership in our economy and SOEs.BMF believes there is sufficient talent but it needs to be nurtured and given experience for our SOEs to become competitive.

Development and empowerment of managerial leadership is the core purpose of BMF. We believe that professionals hold the key to solving many of the challenges the nation faces.

Development and empowerment of managerial leadership is the core purpose of BMF. We believe that professionals hold the key to solving many of the challenges the nation faces. Professionals can also help to boost the development of our economy with a special focus on SOEs.

Professionals also have a role to play as key decision-makers in providing guidance on policy priorities and implementation so that there is maximum buy-in.

More importantly they have a duty to lead, manage and make decisions that will have a positive impact by following the correct processes. This is my two cents’ worth if anyone is listening.

The government should have a massive programme to send top-performing young people to top universities globally to get the best skills. This is one of the ways that Singapore propelled itself from being a third-world backwater to a leader in the first world.

The solution is not to just decry the fact that there are too few black executives in key positions who are sufficiently competent, but to produce more skills across the board. If skills are not broadened and deepened among black people, inequality will not be solved. Skills will go very far to address the lack of inclusiveness in the economy and inequality. BMF itself has a role to play. It needs to pronounce itself on governance issues in its relevant structures and platforms while contributing with inputs to policy formulation. The organisation, through its international and national links, should also focus on implementing a full-scale empowerment programme, one which has a tremendous impact on improving and developing the skills base of black managers. The rationale behind this is not only to develop managerial leadership but to produce competent managers who are capable of being decisive and making critical decisions that talk to transformation.

Such an approach would enable the development of leaders who are equipped with the basic key principles of governance: leadership for efficiency, leadership for probity, leadership with responsibility and leadership that is transparent and accountable.We would then be able to populate our SOEs with leaders who can regain stakeholder confidence and ensure the entities begin to run efficiently. This is the kind of governance that aligns to the values and ethos of the Black Management Forum.

  • Mabuti Mpafa is chair of BMF Komani which is hosting its annual executive debate at 5pm today at Co-operative House (the old ECDC building) in Komani. Titled “Ethical Leadership as a Catalyst for Transformation and Inclusive Economic Growth”, the debate features the MEC of finance and economic development, Oscar Mabuyane sharing his plans on transforming the economy and building financially sustainable SOEs in the Eastern Cape

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