Mailbox: Response to Hersov’s ‘Why am I still doing this?’ – Prominent business leaders need to unite and speak with one voice for real change

By Steuart Pennington

There has been strong opinion on the ‘unwillingness’ of prominent business leaders to publicly ‘speak up’ and take our government to task regarding our current loadshedding, corruption, cadre deployment, crime, service delivery, unemployment, potholes etc. malaise. Comments abound, like “So many spineless CEO’s out there. Way too comfortable with their inflated packages, share incentives and bonus structures. Quite a pathetic bunch really. Nothing but self-serving individuals who cannot care less about what is happening around them. Life is too good on top.” 

Steuart Pennington
Steuart Pennington

I think it naive to expect every prominent businessman to mount his soapbox and mouth off against government. Rob Hersov in his Biznews article “Why am I still doing this?” answers this by saying “I am not going to stop until the rest of the country – starting with the business community – realizes they can and must grow some spine (and a pair of cojones) and stand up and say, “enough is enough!”. Rob will then tell you that Gayton McKenzie is the best thing since sliced bread; the next guy will extol the virtues of Herman Mashaba; John Steenhuizen’s resolve will be applauded and castigated; Helen Zille will have brickbats and bouquets thrown at her; there will be 50 different opinions on how to fix Eskom. It will be a shambles. What Rob, and his ilk need to do is become active members of Business Leadership South Africa and of Business Unity South Africa. He, and his ilk, need to work with the likes of  Busisiwe Mavuso and Cas Coovadia and hear what they have to say about the ‘voice of business’. He, and his ilk, may not think that they can learn anything new, but they will learn what goes on behind the scenes, the critical importance of business speaking with a unified and measured voice and hopefully the inappropriateness of fowl, demeaning, and insulting language.

Read more: Stand-off between government and corporate SA as business sphere deteriorates – Katzenellenbogen

If we want to have any chance of the social partnership (Government, Business, and Civil Society) delivering in the best interests of all South Africans we have to ‘find’ a working relationship based on mutual respect, trust, and an understanding of each ‘partner’s’ implementable deliverables. Business can only do this if it speaks with one voice as a unified ‘partner’. I can’t see what is to be gained by the occasional finger-wagging of CEO’s (with spines) brave as it may be; government will just use this as an opportunity to finger-wag back, cowardly as it may be, both to their and our detriment.

Steuart Pennington, CEO

South Africa – The Good News

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