Speech by Mr Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Public Enterprises, at The Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals (ABSIP) networking function for young Black professionals at Deloitte, Woodlands Office Park, Woodmead
9 Dec 2010
President and the national executive committee of ABSIP
Fellow professionals, ladies and gentlemen
Thank you very much for the invitation to address you this afternoon.
It is said that in ancient Athens, an elderly Socrates was arraigned and tried for impiety and subversion of the youth. Upon a guilty verdict, he was sentenced to death and executed. Whether the charges held any water remains a disputed discourse. What is clear is that the Athenian citizens right or wrongly, held a view that its future, represented by its youth, was under immense threat from the influence of Socrates.
A young generation in any nation represents a promise of immortality. It is upon this generation that the future of a nation rests. A professional segment of this youth bears a heavier burden than the rest of its kind. They are a segment bequeathed with knowledge; the knowledge necessary to enquire into the intrinsic truths of our democracy and society.
As part of the intelligentsia, you have a difficult and challenging responsibility ahead, which Frantz Fanon stated thus:“If man is to be known by his acts, then we will say that the most urgent thing today for the intellectual is to build up his nation”.
The professional youth occupy a place in society akin to the escapees in Plato’s allegory of the cave who return after having experienced true sunlight, who are now able to explain the true nature of, and meaning ascribed to, the shadows and reflections in the cave by those who have not dared to venture out.
The searching mind possessed by young black professionals exhibits a tireless yearning to comprehend one’s purpose and meaning, defining oneself and seeking a legacy that will outlast all superficial mortal measurements. My belief in this regard is that there is no greater legacy than one of altruism and nation building.
Contrary to popular belief public service is not confined to hallways of public office, nor is it an ordained obligation of politicians. The responsibility to fulfil the promise of our nations falls upon a spectrum of individuals, all finding meaning and truth in their equally vital but different roles towards nation building.
Indeed, the pertinent question in our minds should be, what place do young, black, professionals occupy in history? The fact that you are young, black and professional must have meaning to the future of our country, in defining who we want to be, as it is the reason why it is taken as something
Young black professionals have a duty not only to understand the truth of their democracy but to ensure that the discovery of such truths is for the betterment of society and the upliftment of those multitudes among our people who still remain marginalised. They are the nation’s assurance that the future will be better.
Indeed, for in its youth, the nation has its insurance policy; that the guardians of its future and its way of life and keepers of its history and evolution will continue to act in a manner that sustains its name and civilisation.
Through its youth, the nation is afforded a special occasion to peep into its own future. How that future will be shall depend on both what the nation does to prepare it, and on what the youth themselves, as bearers of the promise of that future, do to tread along in that direction, seizing all the knowledge – the accumulated wisdom – that they will find in their society.
Accordingly, we ask the question, what place do you occupy in history? How do you see yourselves in relation to where our nation comes from and where it is headed? For, where we are is only but a transient phase that too, as time always does, shall perish but one thing can be guaranteed – that our journey into the future and is a collective permanent endeavour.
Individually and collectively, we must understand our role in history so that we can be able to knit into one single whole our little individual efforts into the collective journey and aspirations of our people as a whole. I believe this is partly the reason we were invited to address you today. Our views will ultimately be a small part in the kaleidoscope of opinions, perspectives, beliefs and philosophies you have acquired in your early formation.
Ultimately we can only hope that even when you are in the private sector your view is still aligned to the building of South Africa and Africa. South Africa is looking at young professionals as a prism into the future; a better future rid of poverty and inequality, the legacy of racial exploitation and underdevelopment. In your skills, talent, intellectual ability and energy lies the hope of our people and a promise that South Africa and its ideals will not perish.
It is very easy when you are a professional, having the benefit of education, being part of the middle-strata, to look at yourself individually and say, “I am who I am”, rather than, “I am who we are”, and in that way to see in the mirror a reflection of our collective efforts and accumulated struggles as a people.
In that way, individualised pursuits that we always condemn whilst still full of adventurism and idealism at university as a reflection of westernised society find their way into our hearts and consume us, becoming how and who we see ourselves.
Like many black South Africans; you are at an interesting time, a time of self-realisation and at the crossroads of harnessing the instruments to re-engineer all the lingering socio economic structures of injustice. Whilst you follow your intellectual pursuits, professions and business ventures, remember who you are, a promise for a better life for our nation.
It is therefore your duty, having broken the chains that hold black society backward and ventured into new terrains, to refuse that those of your kind should remain in those conditions where, out of no choice of their own, they have remained even as you broke your way out.
Rather than shout, “I made it on my own; through my own effort”, say that the struggles of my people gave me the resilience to succeed and I shall now use my newly-acquired talents, not as my reward by a society that had for long locked me and my people out and only spent ceaseless effort sieving among black people whom do they want on the table of privilege, but as a key to unlock the chains of the doors, still locked, that I left behind in my wake.
If we did so, we would deny the criminals – the drug lords, the rapists, the murderers and the car-hijackers – the mantle of being the role models to our youth and we would give our youth real role models, and pass on to them the time-tested knowledge that only hard work and entrepreneurship build a nation.
We should not allow it that children should hasten to have sex and get pregnant when there are alternatives they could pursue which are more apposite to people their age. Of course, the truth remains that in the absence of hope, the people and the nation shall perish.
The advent of freedom in 1994 presented opportunities to improve the life of our people but did not bring with it ready-made solutions about how to rid our society of inequality and the depravity of the iniquitous system of the past.
In order to find solutions, South Africa depends on the continuous and persistent application of thought by its intellectuals, in particular the young black professionals. Your enterprising spirit, your youth and your enquiring minds are a basis for a belief that solutions to better South Africa can and will be found.
Our people have high hope that having educated their young, they will, in turn, avail of their acquired immense knowledge, talents and skills to help lift them up from the quagmire of poverty, inequality and joblessness. Entitlement and indifference towards the poor and the national endeavour should not find pride of place among us.
The refrain, therefore, that, “I am not where I am because of BEE, affirmative action or government benevolence, but through my own talents”, must be replaced by a realisation that there is nothing to be ashamed of in BEE, affirmative action or the efforts of the democratic government.
We have tended to vulgerise noble and very revolutionary policies in our selfish endeavour to fit in white society and to be seen by our white peers that we are “different” and “not like the other lot”.
Anyway, on its part, the government persists in its efforts to integrate economic growth, development, reconstruction and redistribution into a unified programme to give meaning to liberation to the vast majority that at the moment of freedom lived in poverty and deprivation.
The recently released discussion document, the New Growth Path, calls on the nation to embark on a shared journey towards a shared vision on how best to integrate growth and development in order to address massive joblessness, poverty and inequality.
This document has sparked a very robust debate in our society and drawn our attention to the debate about shared responsibility and what collective sacrifices we need to make in order to in order to move our move our country towards a new social compact on growth and development.
Whilst much focus has been on the proposed salary and wage restraint, the social partners requisite for the ultimate success of the New Growth Path have tended to reject the part where they themselves are called upon to sacrifice, and demanded that the sacrifices must, instead, be made by other social partners.
Yet, the New Growth Path calls for the nation to make difficult choices in order to achieve the levels of growth and development that will surely benefit all of us. However, what is re-assuring is that we are a nation in conversation with itself about difficult policy choices, and in that lie the seeds for a consensus to emerge amidst the dust of debate.
The intention is to get the social partners to think in new ways about the future growth and job creation. Your input in defining the true meaning of a developmental state and participating in this discourse is vital. By doing so, you will be living up to the hopes of our people, that you are a promise for a better tomorrow.
The path to be taken is not easy. It will require sacrifice and hard work by all, including you. The government is not oblivious to your challenges in the workplace and the open market. They are part of the broader challenges faced by our society.
In order to ensure that the New Growth Path addresses your concerns as a segment of our youth, I urge you to proactively participate in this national discourse. You will not only be doing so to better your life but also fulfilling your role as your society’s promise for a better life.
It is commendable, that as young black professionals, you are defined not by the politically manufactured impediments of poverty but by the harvest of your knowledge and sacrifice. A vast majority of our people have pinned their hopes on you for their emancipation. Their faith in the future lies in their trust in the knowledge that you have acquired and your patriotism.
In that regard, you have two inter-connected tasks – both to become the path-finders and pioneers and, at the same time, to empower the masses so that they continue to act as their own liberators in the belief that the people are not helpless and hapless objects of history who have nothing to contribute.
It is always important to remember that our privileged position is not a product of our admirable efforts alone. I remind you of our history not for the sake of obligating you through guilt but to rather remind you of the great urgency for a democratic revolution that is still unfolding and dependent on your role to the nation.
I will remind you again that your story is not independent of the mass based liberation movement and the struggles of our forebears. Your story is connected to a series of sacrifices and triumphs that bridged the path before you; that were midwives to our democracy. And if adage is true that the struggle continues, one of the greatest injustices would be for the struggle for total emancipation to fade and perish due to our complacency.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are part of long journey of African redemption and redefinition. At this juncture the nation needs educated and skilled young professionals to be proponents of the Government’s developmental drive in ensuring that fruits of our freedom are enjoyed by more and more South Africans.
Your contribution will help to direct the course of development of South Africa. Your service to building this nation is needed and can be applied across a spectrum of spheres. It is needed in entrepreneurship that transcends only chasing tenders and the despicable and arrogant public display of opulence.
It is needed in public dialogue platform by redirecting public opinion away from defeatism and a culture of self indulgence. It is needed in a form of courage in large companies who ignore the transformation calls for organisations to better models of corporate governance and government policy. And it is definitely needed among State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in reinforcing the primary mandate of public enterprises of being for public interest, there to drive investment, efficiency and transformation in the SOEs and their customers and suppliers.
We believe that the SOEs have a critical role to play in helping South Africa to fulfil its economic challenges, to accelerate the growth rate to create wealth that enhances the standard of living for all South Africans; dramatically increase employment creation in the formal economy;increase the rate of investment in fixed assets (particularly infrastructure capacity), technologies and skills to support the growth process; develop industrial capabilities to decrease the countries dependence on commodity exports and enhance the current account deficit; and transform the ownership and management profile of the economy to reflect that of the broader South African population.
The developmental state in South Africa has the objective of actively intervening in the economy to drive investment in targeted areas to achieve a long term vision of a higher value added, labour absorptive and racially integrated economy. In this regard, SOEs need to go beyond a business as usual approach to play their role in the context of a developmental state, to drive investment in infrastructure to provide lead capacity to stimulate investment in customer sectors that are dependent on infrastructure inputs constantly improve efficiencies to provide customers with a globally competitive service; stimulate investment in industrial capabilities either through making direct investments or procuring in a manner that promotes investments in plant, technologies and skills in relevant supply chains; play a leadership role in coordinating transformation programs internally and in collaboration with customers and suppliers.
Accordingly, to accelerate the rate of investment in fixed assets, technologies and skills will be achieved through, changing the SOE investment planning framework from a balance sheet perspective to a perspective based on the required investment to unlock the full investment potential of customer industries; building a compact between the SOE and their customers around unlocking funding for infrastructure investment, and where appropriate, linking these developments to investments by customers in new capacity and to economically responsible behaviour; building a compact with the financial community to unlock funding for SOE infrastructure investment on special terms; identifying areas where private investment and involvement in infrastructure operations will compliment that of the SOE; and implementing the investment program through procurement methodologies which structure relationships with suppliers that promote investment and improved competitiveness by the supplier community in expanding existing, and establishing qualitatively new, industrial capabilities.
Enhancing efficiency in, and productivity of, SOE will be achieved through, ensuring that recruitments are executed for all critical vacant posts in key management positions in the SOE, focused performance monitoring of the key drivers of SOE efficiency and linking improvements against pre-determined targets in these areas to management remuneration; building collaborative relationships with key customers to enhance both SOE efficiency and that of the customer for mutual benefit; identifying areas where private operational involvement in infrastructure will enhance efficiencies in SOE either through partnering SOE in areas of weakness or competing with SOE as an independent investor; and implementing capability building programs in specific strategic areas.
Accelerating the transformation of SOE and their stakeholders will be achieved through the selection of Board members and top management committed to transformation a strong focus on succession planning, and a close monitoring of the implementation of these plans, particularly for the top twenty management positions and linking top management remuneration to the implementation of these plans; ensuring that SOE build relationships with customers and suppliers, and demonstrates leadership in these relationships, in the design and implementation of ambitious training programs relating to scarce national skills; leveraging the procurement process to accelerate transformation of companies in the supply chain and enable the growth of small and medium sized businesses; and implementing a comprehensive performance monitoring program of transformation processes in the DPE.
If this process is to be successful, an enabling policy and regulatory environment will be required. In order to achieve this, the DPE will engage with the National Treasury and the economic cluster to implement a more coherent process for allocating budget for capital investments in government engage with sectoral policy departments and regulators to ensure that the competitive structure of the sector and the regulatory regime achieves an appropriate balance between enabling investment and protecting consumer interests; and engage with the new growth path and the industrial policy processes to get recognition and practical support for the role of SOE in the developmental state.
One of the things we are surely going to lift up focus on is the issue of skills development. We are going to focus the SOEs on this matter because of the fundamental role they can play in lifting the artisanal and technical skills base of our nation in order to support the manufacturing and technological capacity and skills of our nation. If there is a truth I have discovered it is that we are one portrait, incapable of detaching our successes from challenges, unable of speaking of where we come from without mention of where we need to go.
As the children of the disenfranchised, we are better positioned to understand the history of our country, the object and purport of the agenda of a developmental state. As young black professionals you are a promise that the torch of freedom will spread light to all. You are a promise of a better future. At this stage of development that our country finds itself in, I am convinced more than ever that the words of Moses Mabhida to the South African youth during the times of resistance remain apposite: “At this hour of your destiny, your country, your people need you.”
Issued by: Department of Public Enterprises
9 Dec 2010
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