Many of us often come across this saying, “lift as you rise”. Former Nedbank Chairperson Dr Reuel
Khoza boldly outlines this notion in his book Attuned Leadership. He cites that “the notion seems
distinctively African for it avows that an individual’s success belongs to others too and something must be given back.
No special favours are intended and no one should benefit unfaily. He continues to say the
sentiment is community-spirited and the underlying motive is to ensure that opportunities are distributed to those who deserve them, those who will make the best of them”.
There is a very thin line however, in understanding the responsibility of empowerment, the responsibility of upholding the power that drives principles of empowerment and transformation for our society, co-operations and competitive best practice standards and ethics in doing all this, particularly in the name of advancing thriving modern societies.
The past decade post the democratic dispensation in South Africa, has held incredible strides,
no doubt about that. During this period, we have seen the black populace spearheading key and prominent roles in various sectors and emerging markets. There was also evident inclination of multifaceted board representation, and the emergence of black women leadership into directorship and decision-making positions.
Of course, this kind of journey is certainly not easy a destination for any developing country to reach overnight. But, unfortunately, the past decade has brought about an explicit wave of dishonesty, corruption and the wrong context of empowerment. Empowerment, the much needed engine by the poorest of the poor living in dire and remote areas, began displaying an unforgettable series that shamelessly paraded overnight wealth and opportunity often gained wrongly and unfairly. It showcased the rich to the toiling poor, whose only crime was largely to do things by the book and to be less connected politically.
It is a good thing that most leaders have had to deal with the reality that no matter how powerful
or influential the position one may hold, life has a way of correcting each of us in its own way, probing us to stand trial for not being able to carry out a mandate of empowering the people, and being accountable in positions of power, as guardians in our sectors, but instead upholding and advancing private interests mainly at the expense of the ordinary people who rely, trust and genuinely look up to their leaders, to unlock bottlenecks stifling empowerment.
It is no secret that people expect decent levels of governance, but they have been constantly left hanging without care quiet often. Corruption is nothing new, in any country and in offices of Presidents, past and present. This disease on its own runs wide across the world and has been for decades, it merely varies in levels of intensity and manner of handling.
The past year alone, in South Africa, has taught us that it is very unwise to undermine the simple
power of the masses, who in one accord move towards one direction, to reclaim the one thing they hold dear, i.e. their country, empowerment and dignity as a people, particularly a people who are still fresh from the indignity of an apartheid-era.
It has been discouraging as an emerging professional to daily come across capable black leaders
thriving in industries, yet deeply sinking carelessly in the face of corruption. Mishandling imperatives of transformation and only focused on advancing a particular associated tribe of individuals, who conformed to the idea of not putting the needs of ordinary people first.
One would wake up to face the world boldly, yet the world – would continuously remind you that for you to move forward one has to succumb to the “lets feed ourselves and our close friends only”
camp. It’s a very sad status-quo that ruled the pinnacle of our nation for a long time. Again, we all ought to forgive ourselves for having placed too much power and trust in leaders we believed will do better, and perhaps one of the ways in which we are growing as a nation is through our past recent experiences, as we now know – that, what will thrive under our watch is what we actually
It’s key to admit that the voice of an ordinary person matters, the power of one voter matters, no one should be taken for granted. Our current dynamic state of democracy is proof to this. Gone are the days of undermining the powerless, for it is the acts of the very powerless folks, who when they unite and become one strong fold, become powerful beyond measure and do hold the will to change realities for themselves and reclaiming the dignity they believe they deserve.
Black leaders in industries need to really start taking themselves and what they do seriously and
not proudly rely on the wheel of wrong-doing and covering up. We need to do better for the upcoming generation, they need evidence they can work with, reference they can be proud to boldly guard and advance forward.
To those South African men and women who constantly refused to surrender to the demon of ransack, we not only salute them, but we also thank them for providing evidence of possibility. From our experiences; may we learn to fit into paradigms of fairness; honesty; attention to
detail; close financial and technical supervision; that we all regard as key features of good governance; in our businesses and society; as this is critical to the positive advancement of all South African and its industries.
This will help position our country to the best globally competitive version of itself, replicating its capacity and Pan-African uniqueness to thrive for all those who live in it. The road ahead may not be easy, it should not be, but without a doubt, we as South Africans, deserve to live in a country that will help educate and employ our youth, open-up the market place for emerging businesses to thrive, and we certainly deserve to live in a country that will transform a still colonial, racist and sexist economic and social architecture, with less talk and more action.
We desperately crave for women and men who will uphold integrity, for there is still hope for humanity to uphold a higher perspective and create an all-inclusive South Africa.
We Are Alive With Possibilities Indeed.
Jabulile Buthelezi is a writer and social activist @Jabu_Buthelezi