Dr Sam Motsuenyane Annual Lecture
Address by Dr Reuel J. Khoza | 12 November 2021
Tuesday afternoon November 2nd, 2021, will remain indelibly marked in my memory. During this afternoon I had the singular honour of going down the memory lane of NAFCOC, the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry with Dr Sam Motsuenyane: reminiscing, relishing and reflecting on the wonderful accomplishments of that august institution. We also had moments to make detours into exploring the wisdom inherent in African idioms and proverbs such as Leruwo le tswa mobung (there is wealth in proper utilisation of land); Ditiro di a buwa (Setswana) / Mintiro ya Vuluvula (Xitsonga) – meaning Deeds speak, and Mphe mphe e ya lapisa, motho o kgonwa ke sa gagwe (Begging begets poverty and hunger, fend for yourself). Sekhukhuni se bonwa ke sebataladi (Sepedi for: Embezzlers and the corrupt might fancy nobody is noticing; truth is, there is always somebody or a few watching).
We even broke bread together, had a sumptuous meal prepared by 90 year old Mme Motsuenyane. Ultimate African hospitality. It was at this moment that I was tempted to ask the crucial question: What constitutes a durable marriage? In torrents of eloquence the answer came: “Genuine love, compatibility, a commonality of purpose and interests. Note too that love in marriage is like a plant, it requires fertilisation and regular watering. Marriage is, in another metaphor, like winter hearth fire, it needs kindling and rekindling.” Spending those three hours with Dr Sam Motsuenyane was arguably the most rewarding extended moment of my life.
A FELLOW SAGE’S OBSERVATION
Shortly after the publication of Long Walk to Freedom, I implored President Nelson R Mandela to autograph me a copy of this book, but with more than just his signature, I needed an inspirational message. This is what he wrote on 21st December 1994:
“Throughout the ages and in all countries, men and women come and go. Some leave nothing behind, not even their name. It is as if they never lived. Others do leave something behind: the haunting memory of the evil deeds they committed against their fellow men. Every time their names are mentioned feelings of revulsion well-up in our hearts. Still others do leave something behind: the good works they do to improve the lives of all people.”
Dr Sam Motsuenyane purposefully chose to be in the third category: to be one of those who do good works to improve the lives of all people through impactful, commendable deeds and an edifying legacy.
If we accept, as indeed we must, that Apartheid was in a real sense a monstrous double-headed hydra: on the one hand, politics of dispossession, disenfranchisement, discrimination, oppression and suppression; and on the other, economics of black impoverishment and exploitation, we have to acknowledge that to slay the double headed monster a two-pronged approach was absolutely essential. 3
Simultaneous with the political wars of liberation waged from the 1960s to the advent of our democracy, the war for economic emancipation was waged on various fronts. Foremost among leaders of the latter struggle was one Dr Sam Motsuenyane. Together with such pioneering peers as Richard Maponya, P G
Gumede, A N Gadi, Archie Mkonyeni, Roger Sishi, Max Tlakula, Rev Joe
Hlongwane and many others, through NAFCOC, Dr Motsuenyane provided the leadership thrust that gave apartheid no rest. The economic sanctions that later helped bring Apartheid to its staggering end were given impetus and imprimatur by NAFCOC under the visionary leadership of Dr Sam Motsuenyane.
Defining an Era in South Africa’s Economic Life
We can say, without any fear of contradiction that Sam Motsuenyane’s leadership life defined an era in South African economic history. Practical manifestations of that epoch include such valiant initiatives as Black Chain, African Bank, Masekela-Mavimbela Scholarship Fund, and later Thebe Investments, NAIL, RAIL, Capital Alliance and WIPHOLD. Valuable lessons were learnt from these initiatives by those who care to observe and learn.
Quintessential Personification of Siriti
Apart from the practical feats we could spend days regaling audiences about the life and times of Dr Motsuenyane, the nation owes him a debt of gratitude for being the quintessential expression of seriti, a concept almost impossible to translate into English. The closest one can get to an English translation is gravitas/dignity. Ntate re leboga boetapele bja seriti. Together with mme Motsuenyane le batho ba setho, batho ba botho, batho ba batho. For that our gratitude knows no limits.
Lift As You Rise
We owe you a debt of gratitude too, for putting the injunction lift as you rise high on the national pedestal during your NAFCOC leadership / tenure.
The injunction to lift others as you yourself rise is widely understood and deeply felt in all our communities. It is an extension, of course, of the Ubuntu idiomatic expression that a person is a person because of other people, or as they say in Sesotho, Motho Ke motho ka batho babangwe. Success in life may be personal as a result of hard work and initiative, but we are moved to ensure that others also benefit from our achievements. The injunction lift as you rise was adopted by NAFCOC and is also used by successful women business groups to encourage up-and-coming entrepreneurs to heed the value of interdependence.
Dr Sam Motsuenyane’s life is a bold statement proclaiming that as a worthy business leader you cannot justify your existence by profit statements alone. You must also render service to your local, national, continental and world community.
Dr Motsuenyane bequeaths to South Africa a legacy of unrestricted proportions. Of you Confucius would say, “There are three marks of the superior man: being virtuous, he is free from anxiety; being wise, he is free from perplexity; being brave, he is free from fear.”
You epitomise all three of these virtues. What’s more, you enabled us to distinguish leadership that is merely meaningful from that which is significant. Significance in this instance implies transcending what the leadership role 5 means for the leader in question to the impact such leadership has on the followers and others.
Dr Motsuenyane amply demonstrated virtue, and at no stage did he show anxiety. His wisdom shone through, leaving no room for confusion. He displayed much courage in challenging the vicious Apartheid edifice which was politics of suppression and dehumanisation as much as it was economics of exclusion and exploitation. His leadership was very instrumental in what transformation we could notch up during those painfully dizzy Apartheid years. Second, he ensured organisational prowess and effectiveness spanning decades. This was predicated on sound situational analysis. Third, he insisted on dogged persistence on implementation. And finally, he personified uncompromising ethical values and high integrity characterised by what the Institute of Directors sums up as ICRAFT which stands for Integrity, Competence, Responsibility, Accountability, Fairness and Transparency.
A SENSE OF THE NATIONAL CHALLENGE
In chatting to Ntate Motsuenyane on that delightful November 2nd, 2021 afternoon, I gained the distinct impression that he was lamenting the perception that our beloved country was either stagnating or regressing. We concurred that the cardinal challenge facing any nation in this fast-changing, globalising environment, is to effectively compete for the future. That every political economy is willy-nilly in the process of becoming or transforming; becoming an anachronism – irrelevant to the future; or becoming a modern political economy capable of prospering in a harsh globalised twenty-first century environment.
William Jennings Bryan admonishes: “Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” The sine qua non for South Africa’s survival and prosperity is 6 leadership with a compelling sense of destiny, a clear national vision anchored on a wholesome value system. Central to this is integrity and ethical conduct.
In electing or selecting national leadership the citizenry should insist on prescribing criteria for who may avail themselves for leadership roles and proscribing those who should not dare to lead. Criteria essential for leadership election or selection even in the public sector should include:
- Adequate education and attendant expertise.
- Ability to deal with twenty-first century complexity.
- Capacity to comprehend the ravages of globalisation and to ensure that South Africa / Africa at the very least benefits equitably, and at best carves for itself a justifiable unfair advantage.
- Empirically observable and testable ethical conduct.
- A clear understanding of the interplay between politics and economics and the attendant cause and effect.
Potentially bad leaders for whom proscription should apply include the following (about whom Barbara Kellerman has researched and written):
- Observably Incompetent Candidates: Those who lack the skill or expertise to sustain effective positive leadership. These tend to be minimally educated.
- Potentially Rigid Leaders: stiff and unyielding, unable or unwilling to adapt to new ideas, new information, or changing times.
- Callous Candidates namely those who are observably uncaring and lacking in compassion. They have a tendency to be apparently self-serving.
- Corrupt: Empirically or apparently given to lying, cheating and embezzling / stealing.
- Malicious Leadership: Evil, given to committing atrocities, using pain as an instrument of power.
The above may be the basis of citizen activism that seeks to prevent bad leadership or mis-leadership. The application of criteria which prescribe and proscribe worthy candidates is in fact standard practice in the private sector, where meritocracy in leadership and management selection trumps irrational deployment.
MAHATMA GHANDI’S ADMONITION
Mahatma Ghandi’s ever-green admonition commands attention up to this day and behoves us to heed:
“The things that will destroy us are:
Politics without principles,
Pleasure without conscience,
Wealth without work,
Knowledge without character,
Business without morality,
Science without humanity, and
Worship without sacrifice.”
Against this sagacious admonition, using it as a mirror to reflect on ourselves as we look at life in contemporary South Africa, what do we see?
Anyone who has eyes to see and cares to observe, cannot but notice:
- Grinding poverty, rampant structural unemployment and extreme inequality.
- A nation battling to stem moral degeneration.
- A nation that is essentially a house divided struggling to stay aligned in pursuit of national goals.
- Leadership without a compelling sense of destiny; no clear national vision, no clearly articulated purpose.
- We perceive national mis-leadership emersed in politics of patronage, which is cancerous to our republic’s moral fibre.
- We squander seed capital that should be invested for ensuing generations.
- We observe a political leadership that displays wanton disregard for oaths of office; leadership that dismally fails to uphold, respect, protect and defend our constitution when it is in fact their cardinal duty to do so.
We have no appreciation of globalization, the workings of international moneymarkets and the decision-making processes of asset managers, as well as what guides foreign direct investments. This informs our leaders’ dismal ignorance of the consequence and implications of a credit downgrade to junk status: We are aghast to hear a minister proclaim that the rand can drop in value at whim and be picked up at will.
- An incorrigible political governance system replete with wholesome laws and regulations, but failing dismally to enforce them due to lack of appropriate consequence management.
- Criminals and other crass delinquents habitually corroding the nation’s moral fibre, because they typically get away with it. Year after year the Auditor General exposes wasteful and irregular expenditure, embezzlement and downright theft by known maladministrators and virtually no punishment ensues and thus the rot settles, corruption thrives. The idea of crime and punishment is fast becoming alien to our justice system.
What else do we see as we look around?
- Law-enforcement agents who glibly, often stridently, make false promises but fail to follow up and account to the nation; do this with gay abandon.
- We craft plan after plan without a rigorous programme of implementation: no clear timelines, no milestones, no explicit moments of reflection, revision, and essential recommitments and deadlines. Just plans occupying drawers. Little or no monitoring mechanisms.
- We advertently or inadvertently inculcate and nourish dependency among the citizenry by inter alia:
- – housing citizens instead of enabling them to build their own houses ala Jimmy Carter’s programme of Habitat for Humankind.
- – unimaginatively dispensing social grants in a manner that is unsustainable, instead of getting able-bodied citizens to reciprocate with some sweat equity in return for a more substantial grant.
– leadership that wrecks a well-nigh indestructible economy, dumping it in junk status, • Voter apathy occasioned by recurrent false promises, political campaign after political campaign – a real danger to our hard earned democracy. This is a painful state of affairs given that at the advent of democracy South Africa was perceived as the vibrant emerging economy. The tragedy now is that we have a country that battles with providing basic necessities like the provision of water and electricity. Our emerging economy status is fast unravelling into a submerging economy.
HOW DO WE AS A NATION EMERGE FROM THIS POLITICAL, SOCIOECONOMIC MAELSTROM
By inter alia learning lessons from the exemplary lives of leaders like Dr Sam Motsuenyane
- Appreciating that leaders are not just born to the role. They are born, then made – and sometimes unmade by their own actions.
- Socially inculcating commitment to be a net contributor early in life, making a positive difference.
- Attunement to challenges of the time and finding attendant solutions.
- Clear conception of the nature of our challenge as multifaceted namely, political, socio-economic, educational and cultural.
- Thinking, planning with posterity in mind and implementing purposefully.
- Shunning reinventing the wheel, choosing rather to refine it by deliberately and purposefully learning from others. For instance doing a comparative analysis between successful and unsuccessful nations by identifying differences and similarities. We could for instance compare Ghana versus South Korea over the past thirty years. South Africa versus Malaysia and Rwanda versus Zimbabwe. Signal lessons could be learned.
A CLARION CALL FOR RESPONSIBLE AND RESPONSIVE BUSINESS LEADERSHIP
The great humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Alfred Schweizer opined: “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
Conscientious, that is to say responsible, empathetic, responsive leaders, in addition to their strong analytical, emotional, spiritual and socio-systemic intelligence, are keenly aware of the significance of service in helping their nations or organisations realise their highest potential. In essence they know that genuine service to (their) followers – service to others, leads to more personal accomplishment. 11
Many amongst us will concur with George Eberhard that, “The vital force in business life is the honest desire to serve. Business it is said, is the science of service. He profits most who serves best. At the very bottom of the wish to render service must be honesty or purpose, and as I go along through life, I see more and more that honesty in word, thought and work means success! It spells a life worth living and in business clean success.”
Responsible and responsive – and might I add accountable, leadership is anchored on a sound / wholesome value system; attuned to its time through its sense of historical mission; it resonates with the needs and aspirations of its followership, and it is responsive to its beckoning sense of destiny.
This address would not be complete without touching on the ubiquitous subject matter of Black Economic Empowerment; knowing how important this is to Ntate Motsuenyane.
In sounding the clarion call may I draw from the field of mythology as I did on past occasions. We are all aware of the allegory of the emperor without clothes. We currently seem intent on developing a novel twist to this. We are busy creating seemingly splendid corporate edifices; yet our deep, spiritual ownership and centrality as black people to these edifices is questionable. Very little of our own souls, dreams and aspirations drive some of the initiatives we purport to own. Very little of our own intellectual acumen and mental energies is invested in these initiatives we purport to own. Very little of our own brawn and sweat is employed in the creation and continued existence of these initiatives we purport to own. Under the guise of being dedicated to professionalism and results, we turn to those who have been previously privileged with skills, resources and access to markets, who conceive, initiate, and drive what are ostensibly our initiatives. In many instances, though the 12 public relations are well managed, in reality it becomes difficult to tell who is the principal and who is the agent.
In the future, when we look in the mirror, we will probably see splendid imperial robes, called black companies, but we will not be able to detect any visible body which these robes adorn. Nothing. No head, no face, no arms, no body … at least not black! We shall have created our own new mythology – clothes without emperors!
In conclusion, my fellow business colleagues, we have choices to make:
We could choose to believe in alchemy or we could choose to invest in the development and employment of the necessary strategic and technical capabilities, and in the intellectual capacity to understand cause and effect.
We could choose to be like parasitic weeds, sprouting opportunistically at any and all instances, striving for instant growth and flowering or we could choose to be like oak trees, independently rooted, sturdy and designed for the next millennium.
We could choose to follow blindly in the paths of those who have gone before us, and to follow the dictates and agendas of others, or we could choose to develop our own compelling vision and agenda, confident and courageous enough to follow our dreams no matter how long it takes, no matter what obstacles we face.
We could choose to invest in the development of a mirage, of appearances, through fancy ownership and financing structures and courtesans who make the critical decisions behind the scenes, or we could choose to invest in the development of the real thing, of blacks as unquestionable principals of their 13 own ventures, through the development of our only true asset, black intellectual capital.
We could choose to perpetuate the stereotype of the African as a dependent, servile, parasitic citizen of the world, or we could choose to create a new prototype of the African as a proud, productive and independent citizen of the world, equal to his compatriots, and commanding unconditional global respect.
Genuine greatness is a function of both the heart and the intellect. It bristles with both passion and compassion as much as it does with purposeful responsiveness to its followership. It neither lags its age nor moves too far ahead of it. It is contemporaneous, moving ahead of its followership at a distance sufficient to lead its march. Dr Sam Motsuenyane epitomised this where the Chamber of Commerce and Industry movement and its resonance with the liberation struggle are concerned.
Ntate Motsuenyane: Pioneering Social Worker, Visionary Farmer, Supreme
Chamber of Commerce President, Legendary Business Leader, Economic Emancipator, Ambassador and African Humanist Par Excellence; Sagacious Wisdom Keeper, we hail and applaud you!!
Tota ditiro di a buwa – Deeds speak. They speak in a language that is universally understood. Let humanity be still. Deeds themselves shall speak.
Ntate Motsuenyane, ditiro tsa gago di buwile. Your deeds have spoken emphatically.