Reuel Khosa calls for courageous leadership in South Africa’s hour of need

In Dr Reuel Khoza’s opinion, the political temperature in South Africa is becoming dangerously hot. “The voices are more shrill, the sense of impending danger more immediate,” he said. “That’s why

Dr Reuel Khoza

we desperately need to have courageous conversations about leadership issues.”

Opening the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa’s annual conference held yesterday at the Sandton Convention Centre, Dr Reuel Khoza, the organisation’s President, spoke out strongly about the need for courageous leadership in South Africa at this stage of our history. Courage, said Dr Khoza, is vital because without it all other virtues are ineffective.

Dr Khoza went on to argue that the national leadership is bent on propping up mediocrity. “We observe putative national leaders who actively suppress excellence and brush shining professionalism aside with gusto, simply because it is at variance with their corrupt view of the world. The same questionable leadership is also preoccupied with the warped logic that would have us believe that the superior wisdom and expertise of independent institutions such as the judiciary is inferior to that of the party, fragmented, ill-informed and chaotic as it is.”

“There are compelling reasons for us to engage in serious discourse as conscientious, caring and committed citizens, both corporate and individual,” he said. “We are a nation with no clearly articulated, compelling vision, a country with only a fuzzy sense of destiny. The inspiration of the post-1994 era has deserted us, and our political leadership’s moral quotient is fast degenerating, with cabinet ministers embezzling, wasting, maladminstering and abusing their fiduciary duty with impunity, leadership without compunction—no pricking of conscience.”

Dr Khoza went on to argue that the national leadership is bent on propping up mediocrity. “We observe putative national leaders who actively suppress excellence and brush shining professionalism aside with gusto, simply because it is at variance with their corrupt view of the world. The same questionable leadership is also preoccupied with the warped logic that would have us believe that the superior wisdom and expertise of independent institutions such as the judiciary is inferior to that of the party, fragmented, ill-informed and chaotic as it is.”

In this context, business leadership is culpably remaining silent in case lucrative tenders are lost. “Corruption needs both a corruptor and a corruptee, and we have both in plenty,” Dr Khoza said. “We must pull together to pull together to turn the country back on course towards national development and effective, sensible global engagement. We in the private sector see what is happening, but what are we doing about it?”

Dr Khoza believes that “attuned leadership” holds the key to the solution—leadership that listens to its own heart and head and to the appeals of those it leads. “In my view, good governance is first and foremost a human rights issue. It cannot be otherwise, since only a moral leadership committed to the good of stakeholders will wholeheartedly commit itself to clean, accountable, responsible practices. Good governance is attuned leadership in action,” he said.

In Dr Khoza’s opinion, the political temperature in South Africa is becoming dangerously hot. “The voices are more shrill, the sense of impending danger more immediate,” he said. “That’s why we desperately need to have courageous conversations about leadership issues.”

Dr Khoza’s prescription is simple—but difficult to achieve: “We have a duty to insist on strict adherence to the institutional forms that underpin out young democracy. A duty to help define and clearly articulate our national vision based on rigorous analysis and a compelling sense of destiny that will serve as a national rallying point. We must shun depravity and diligently promote a nation built on moral values. We must stop creeping kleptocracy dead in its tracks. We must then develop a comprehensive national plan designed to combat ignorance, ill-health, poverty and unemployment to promote abiding respect for ethical behaviour, a sense of efficacy, a powerful work ethic and active pursuit of excellence as we build our nation.”

Dr Khoza believes that South Africa has the depth to overcome these challenges based on how much we have already overcome. More important, he believes we also possess the courage to do what needs to be done—without bitterness, sensibly and inclusively. He concluded: “We have to consider that overcoming poverty is the greatest challenge facing us today. Youth are marginalised, the unemployed are desperate: there is indeed a revolution in the making unless we pull together. We must pay living wages, curb executive greed, improve the skills base of the undereducated, seek new ideas and markets, serve our stakeholders honestly, and rise to the challenges of corporate citizenship. That is what our leadership conversations need to be about.”