We have fallen from a rainbow nation to a mafia state, says Busisiwe Mavuso

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[L-R] Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Ms Busisiwe Mavuso, Professor Sizwe Mabizela
[Credit: Poelo Keta]
[L-R] Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Ms Busisiwe Mavuso, Professor Sizwe Mabizela [Credit: Poelo Keta]

By Poelo Irene Keta

On Tuesday, 04 October, the Rhodes Business School (RBS) held its 8th Annual Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust (ATMDT) Lecture on Values-Based Leadership. The School hosted the CEO of Business Leadership South Africa, Ms Busisiwe Mavuso as guest lecturer.  

In his opening address, the Director of the Business School, Professor Owen Skae, highlighted that the previous seven speakers included former Governor of the Reserve Bank and former Minister of Finance, Mr Tito Mboweni, former Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr Mcebisi Jonas, Dr Makhosi Khosa and former First Lady Mrs Graca Machel.

Professor Skae led this introductory session, among many honourable guests, including the Cape Town Archbishop and former Bishop of Grahamstown, Thabo Makgoba and his wife Mrs Lungile Makgoba, Bishop of Grahamstown Ebenezer St Mark Ntlali, the Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sizwe Mabizela, the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation Professor Peter Clayton and the Deans of Commerce Professor Dave Sewry and Science Professor Tony Booth.

After being virtual for the past two years, this face-to-face lecture came at an opportune moment in South Africa’s history to investigate how values-based leadership can equip the country with the resources and leadership it needs to navigate the current challenges, said Professor Skae.

As he reflected on some of the previous guest lecturers, Prof Skae shared wisdom imparted by Mrs Graca Machel during the third annual lecture; she highlighted the lack of collective outrage by South Africans against the rapidly escalating brutalisation of women and children. She firmly stated that we must develop a values-based society. Family, school and religion have to work together as well as Higher Education Institutions, so that we can salvage some structure that we can continuously build on.

Prof Sake introduced Ms Mavuso, former Non-Executive Director on the Board of Eskom and a Chartered Accountant currently pursuing a PhD, as this year’s guest lecturer.

“We have fallen from being a rainbow nation to a mafia state. That is where South Africa is today,” Ms Mavuso said as she offered widely received and thought-provoking approaches to values-based leadership. “If we seek to define and dissect values-based leadership, as Richard Barret says, ‘values-based leadership asserts that people are mostly motivated by values, and they live according to these beliefs, which means that values are our most natural motivators’.”

In making decisions, it is natural for leaders to refer to their own values, Ms Mavuso further stated. “Reflecting on this in the context of our South African leaders, what is our values frame system? Is there a clearly defined set of values that defines us as leaders?” she asked.

Having been in business for the past 27 years and having engaged with the government, the Presidency, Labour Union leaders and Civil Society leaders, Ms Mavuso questioned if we can still come up with a clear, succinct set of values of what really guides us as leaders in South Africa today. “Integrity is the best quality to possess – this is something I learned from my community, who had limited resources. I learned that thieves were shoved, and hard work and honesty were lauded. That’s the era I grew up in, but today, in the degradation of our society, corruption and theft have been normalised. Since we are talking about values-based leadership and why it matters, we must ask, ‘Do we have a transparent value system that guides us as leaders in this country?’”

Ms Mavuso’s lecture was followed by the question-and-answer session and closing remarks.

A ‘Responsible Leadership Essay Prize Award’ was presented to the essay winner for 2021, Lester Isaacs, and the Archbishop read his citation.

The essay requires the students to prepare an advisory document on Responsible Business Leadership, using their syndicate models of leadership to show how Responsible Leadership can be encouraged and inculcated within the organisation in which they are a member.

“In his essay, Mr Isaacs builds on the structure of the Cambridge Sustainable Leadership Model by integrating elements from other leadership theories, such as Ubuntu and Transformational Leadership, to create a very personal framework of his own future leadership responsibilities,” Archbishop Makgoba said.

As the elected President of the MBA Class of 2021, Mr Isaacs gave the final vote of thanks to the speaker. “At the end of our course, we are excited to head back to our businesses and make a positive difference. Your lecture came as a wake-up call – a reality call to all of us. We see you as a leading light, somebody who has disdain for criminality in leadership and is out there fighting the good fight,” he said.

The ATMDT lectures are an annual reminder of where we are as a country and where we need to be. They also allow Rhodes Business School students to learn from masters in the field.