A RECENT editorial in a business paper that, inter alia, commented that business in South Africa was in trouble due in part to "spectacular lack of public leadership by business" got me thinking, as a multiple business owner of many years in Port Elizabeth and employer of hundreds, about broader leadership issues in our metro. Our beloved city, and country, is in decay.
Political leadership is primarily to blame. Twenty to 30 years may also be a short period in the history of a country, but in decades ahead it is likely it be penned by historians that it was always too much to have expected a liberation movement to have transformed into an effective administrative government.
Perhaps the rush by many to luxuriate on the gravy train while they can is testimony to their understanding of such inevitability. Any argument that while some were imprisoned or forced into exile to ensure a free and liberated South Africa for us all while the rest of us were able to carry on and build economic value also does not justify the extent of self-enrichment, as reward, let alone R260-million retirement compounds or wives of politicians being beneficiaries of tenders or BEE deals.
There is no sustainable future for any one of us without the transformation of all sectors – social cohesion certainly requires this. Accept and contribute thereto if you wish to continue living in this wonderful place.
There is no doubt transformation was and remains imperative. However, our seemingly relentless spiral towards becoming a dysfunctional state, province and metro appears an unintended yet dire consequence.
Those in recent years tasked to ensure effective metro leadership have failed us dismally as have those around in business, civil and other structures who should have been shouting the odds.
So what about the opposition? The Stanford Slabbert saga is regrettably symptomatic of the inherent nature of that party and its voter base.
I have known and seen in action too many DA councillors to believe they have experienced Damascene conversions, and are able to draw in and capture sufficient supporters across the spectrum to become custodians of the non-racial, democratic new South African dream. An inherent proposition that depends on anti-ANC votes, rather than having its own positive and broad appeal, can never prove sustainable.
How nice it would otherwise have been to have seen the DA on the ground becoming part of the solution. The DA needs to contribute to solutions, else it is just part of the problem.
Let's not be under any illusion that all DA-led councils are scandal free and with clean audits. Heaven forbid that the DA should win control over the metro. Who would it appoint to key posts?
Agang shall hopefully prove resilient and sustainable. With a combination of leadership that has true struggle credentials, ethics, morality and values, coupled with teams of volunteers around the country trying to make a difference at community level, especially in rural areas, deserves greater support.
Cosatu needs a big party brother, Agang more likely than a DA to ever be a partner, showing ultimately where relevance may actually lie!
Decades of business experience here leads me to a position that in its current guise the business chamber is irrelevant and ineffective. It has been singularly ineffective in making any difference to the political environment in which business has to operate.
Eloquent and publicised presentations to Nersa made zero difference to my rocketing electricity costs. The chamber is not going to be taken seriously by political leadership in the new South Africa.
It needs radical change, else develop a backbone and stand up for business and show that change can be influenced. In contrast, the previously much-maligned CDC is doing wonderful work.
It is effective and relevant. Give it more to do, it is making it happen.
Those who appointed a black only investment council should face the same derision as Slabbert. Perhaps it was at least honest in showing unadulterated bias towards just a section of the business community, but a distinct lack of judgment.
Since its formation, has it even met yet? What is its mandate?
There are many experienced, proven, successful industrialists and business folk exceptionally committed to making a difference to this wonderful city. Why were they not invited?
The Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) is fantastic. There is more humble leadership than elsewhere and real delivery, with accountability.
It deserves far more support – financially, skills, whatever – and be given far more areas of responsibility. Perhaps the answer is for the MBDA and CDC to drive an initiative, with no political representatives, to represent business, with an all-inclusive developmental framework.
The IDC would also add great value. Create a board of seasoned business folk, not consultants or politicians.
The varsity and others can contribute greatly – what a powerful collective, provided a clear mandate is for measurable deliverables rather than talk talk.
The existing chamber can continue as a network forum for small businesses, which seems to be its niche.
The varsity is a brilliant institution for the new South Africa, is exceptionally well led and is making a difference to the future of so many youngsters, but also to business and industry through research, patents and other assistance. Yet it is so exceptionally silent about critical issues that affect all ratepayers.
Come on, get involved. We need you. You can add so much more.
PE is a truly fantastic city. Let's not ever doubt the goodwill and spirit here. We just need and deserve far better leaders.
Entrepreneur 1984 to ?, Port Elizabeth