MAILBOX: Dou Pienaar – Get testicular fortitude, push back hard against politicians

In a powerful and candid email, a participant of the Better Business Forum, spurred by inspirational discussions and the recent BizNews conference, passionately calls for assertive leadership and societal unity in South Africa. Reflecting on the conference and a talk on resilience in nature, Dou Pienaar urges business leaders and citizens alike to foster “testicular fortitude,” unapologetically push back against ineffective governance, and collaboratively forge a narrative focused on moving forward together. This compelling message highlights the urgency of accountability and the potential of collective action amidst national challenges.

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By Dou Pienaar

I was in Hermanus over the easter weekend and from your recent Biznews #6 conference I can see semigration has worked out well for you.

I certainly do not want to clutter your inbox but listening to Ian Cameron’s inspirational question and answer session on your platform this morning reminded me of an email I sent to Keith Brown (KZN based and Mike Brown’s cousin), who is the founder of the Better Business Forum (Started during the Covid lockdown).

The point is, I know your (Biznews) rationale is distributing rational business news, but I sincerely believe that our tribe needs to start ‘unappologetically pushing back!’.

Anyway, my conviction is that my ermail to Keith at the time in 2020, is as valid and as appropriate now.

For interest’s sake here is the gist of that email:

Good morning Keith

Thanks for the invite to yesterday’s forum discussion on the subject of ‘After the Chaos’. I particularly enjoyed the analogy by Steve Johnson on how nature responds to adversity, as you know one of my other passions is wildlife photography. To this end, may I remind and encourage you to get the book ‘Towards Synergy’ by my friend and world-renowned wildlife photographer Louw Coetzer.

I found the discussions interesting and did not want to overstay my welcome as a guest by expressing my views during the discussion part of the session but as you know me, I cannot help myself, so here are some of my thoughts which you are welcome to share with your forum members:

There is no lack of noise, symptoms and opinions out there of the status quo, however to me it is all about adversity and what to do when it strikes. Life has certainly taught me that adversity reveals the true character of people, organisations and for that matter countries. The world, not just South Africa, is suffering from an acute lack of meaningful leadership, never mind high quality and effective leadership.

It seems to me that what is needed in SA now more than ever is True Leadership and to my mind what business at all levels in SA needs to do is:

·         Urgently and with a single minded focus develop some ‘testicular fortitude’.

·         In true leadership style we need to Unapologetically start a dedicated campaign of pushing back (to use an overused American term). A good example of this Unapologetic engagement is the ‘Open letter to the President’ as published by Alec Hogg’s Biznews this last week (link:https://open.spotify.com/episode/6PJ7SvQrOCPZPMXomowXvL) or just go onto the Biznews web site to find it.

  • The rationale should be to force a change of the narrative that only highlights the past (and use it as an excuse for our failures) but to create a new narrative that says ‘we cannot change the past, lets accept that it happened and lets move on and agree with profound conviction that we need each other for survival ‘.  
  • So through Constructive Transparent engagement with all levels of society including the government, we (all South Africans) should come together and choose actions as well as robust follow up on how to positively and effectively rescue our beautiful nation.
  • We should work diligently and dedicate ourselves with tenacity to unlock the tremendous magnitude of talent in all aspects of our resourceful society. One of the speakers yesterday used the example of skills transfer which I think is a wonderful start.
  • Again I would strongly favour anUnapologetic and focused process of keeping those in power to account. It is our right, our responsibility and for goodness sake as the funders of the state and creators of economic activity we owe it to ourselves as ‘the people’ to act assertively and urgently.  

It appears to me that we are way beyond the stage of ‘pussyfooting’ around government because we are fearful of the perpetual ‘Race card’ and ‘Command Control’. All South Africans are in the same storm for sure, although it must be recognised that we are in many different boats and some are barely surviving on a day to day basis without any ‘boats’ or protection. The recent reaction by communities of all races and classes to Unapologetically stand together during the catastrophic events in KZN and Gauteng shows me that all the people of South Africa are more than ready to accept that we need to look after each other with the future in view and stand unified together otherwise what will be left is not worth crying about. 

At the risk of appearing to patronise the poorest of the poor in our country it is my conviction that they are ready and deserve whatever Leadership that there is available and my opinion remains that Business need to offer True Leading unapologetically and appropriatly, starting with the valuable Human assets around us. I heard yesterday about the new ‘Mafia’ attempting to intimidate business owners in Umlazi to use them for clean-up operations. I hope that business owners and their staff can stand together against these politically supported rent seekers and criminals.

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