Crisis in country needs ethical leaders - President Kgalema Motlanthe

USB Leadership President Kgalema Motlanthe 01 LR.jpg

In an inaugural address President Kgalema Motlanthe says “It is not uncommon to hear the word ‘crisis’ affixed to our present condition. However when in crisis the moment calls for a systemic change that involves altering the unequal bases of our institutions and their functions, modes of thinking and ways of being.”

President Motlanthe was speaking at a responsible leadership lecture presented by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) in collaboration with the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation on Friday evening (27 October).

Echoing the sentiment from the President, Prof Naudé, Director of USB, preceded the key note address by saying “when a democracy is in crisis it requires civil society to rise to the occasion, bring rationality back, and openly discuss the issues so that truth, freedom and democracy can prevail.”

Speaking frank on the inequality in South Africa, President Motlanthe, said, “With the benefit of hindsight, we can now say that we have not lived up to, and even regressed, the promise of creating a democracy that would deal with the global dilemma of racial discrimination. Calling attention to this point is critical, as the question of national leadership operates precisely within the contours of this domain.”

 “The gaps in our society remain all too visible, particularly for the people who have to find ways to stay alive, fed and healthy, before considering the possibility of succeeding and indeed thriving.”

“The incomplete transition to democracy and the growing pains incumbent to radical transformation compels us to appreciate the processual nature of change and the leadership and vision required to shape such transformation.”

President Motlanthe said for many in the country the conditions of post-apartheid state remain stifling, narrowing the possibilities of a future that is without end beyond their grasp.

“While social challenges are historically rooted and inherited, in the absence of ethical leadership they are sustained by a society declared to be free, equal and just – resulting in a democratic contradiction that has global manifestations.”

“Failure to address contemporary challenges, even as they were not entirely shaped by our hands, cannot excuse our collective complicity in their continuation.”

He stressed that social development must be central to cross-sectorial, ethical leadership, ensuring decent access to education, employment, healthcare and dignified housing.

“Every leader must be held accountable, every citizen has a role to play, and we are responsible for following the mandate set out by democracy, whilst fostering the ethical imperatives and standards against which we can measure what we mean when we invoke concepts like ‘good governance’, ‘inclusive growth’ and ‘responsible leadership’.” 

In quoting Prof Naudé commenting that from a business school perspective, social development in South Africa happens through empowering students to understand their role as responsible leaders when they go back into society, President Motlanthe says business should operate for societal greater good and not be merely concerned with bottom lines, investor interests and remaining competitive. 

“Social entrepreneurship is often consigned to corporate social responsibility interests rather than being infused into the totality of the business’ identity and agenda. The possibility, however, exists to reframe both the way we think about business, as well as the kinds of collaborations that would be possible across sectors.”

President Motlanthe says confronting social issues requires research, data and its interpretation and other knowledge resources to operate optimally which is fundamentally, but not exclusively, the domain of the university. 

“The multiplicity of functions that a university can play in society should ultimately strive to create wholesome human beings with a compassionate moral conscience.”

“Social innovation cannot simply be relegated to niche business interests.  It is about a state of mind, a consciousness, an ethos that can inform the way we think about doing business, governing or fighting for social justice and creating a moral guide for responsible leadership.”

USB Leadership President Kgalema Motlanthe LR 02.jpg USB Leadership President Kgalema Motlanthe and Prof Piet Naude LR 01.jpg
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