There are six things SA’s business sector should take the lead on, Bonang Mohale, CEO of Business Leadership SA, said on Friday.
“Gone are the days when business looked at government, saying government must create policy stability and an environment in which business can shrive,” Mohale said as guest speaker at an event hosted by the Ubuntu Foundation and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Cape Town on Friday.
“Business must take the lead as it has a disproportionate voice and resources.”
1. Shared value
“The role of business is to survive,” said Mohale.
He would like to see SA’s business sector take the lead in ensuring sustainability in the country.
“Business must deliver the notion of shared value. There must be wins for shareholders and the broader stakeholder community – including labour,” he said.
“Pay decent wages and make goods and services that the labour force can afford.”
2. Deliver on promises
For Mohale it is important that the business sector delivers what it promises. In this way, it will “continue to get the social licence to operate” in SA.
“It is important for business to have credibility in order to continue to earn the space to have a voice,” said Mohale.
For him it is important that the business sector does no harm to the community, society and environment in which it operates.
“Businesses should do something active. The role of business is to make the world a better place,” said Mohale.
“SA has to work. I have only one passport. I cannot go to Sydney, Melbourne or Perth.”
He would like to see business take the notion of education in SA seriously.
“The surest way to transcend social class if you are born in Alexandra – 4km from the riches of Sandton – is education,” said Mohale.
“SA is the only African country which became free and did not improve the quality of education. A study says 80% of grade 4 learners cannot read with comprehension. So, business must take a leadership role in this regard,” he said.
4. Land reform
Mohale would like to see SA’s business sector take a leading role on the issue of land reform. He emphasised that, by this, he did not mean expropriation without compensation.
He is disappointed with the lack of progress made in this regard since democracy – despite the Constitution making adequate provision for such a process, in his view.
“It is like having the keys to a house in your pocket, but you say ‘no, I will still kick down the door just to show I can’,” explained Mohale.
“If there was an Olympic sport for development plans, SA would win. They just do not get implemented.”
Mohale would like to see the business sector take the lead on transformation in SA.
“We are not an outpost of Europe. White people are beneficiaries from the past. They need to accept they are a product of white privilege – then and now,” he said.
“White people must help black people to have their own boots and boot straps with which to pull themselves up. If we did that, all of us would be better off. It is no good for white people just to say they worked hard to get where they are.”
He pointed out that “poverty still has a black face”.
“You must lift as you rise. It is about talking honestly and transparently about of our values. We are a violent society and we need a moral regeneration programme,” he said.
6. Fiscal crisis
Mohale would like to see the business sector take the lead in getting SA out of what he calls its fiscal crisis.
“More money has been stolen more than had been generated in the country. So, we have to tighten our belts to pull ourselves out of the crisis,” he said.
“Business must lead to create more jobs. There is no glory in being one of 17 million people having to queue for social security. We need a huge, bulging middle class to sustain our economy. Our middle class is not sufficient for that currently.”