In my speaking engagements in South African companies, I’m often shocked by the realisation that many employees – including middle, senior and executive managers – can either not remember their company’s values, where they exist, or are not sure if they’re integrated into performance management.
This may explain the seemingly growing culture of wanton corruption and unethical conduct around the country.
There seems to be a worrying acceptance that people can do wrong and get away with it, especially in cases involving people in senior and executive levels of such companies. Golden handshakes are not limited to the government sector.
I often start my interventions by stating a few fundamentals about brands; that they must:
· Have a strategic vision
· Have an enforceable set of values integrated in their corporate/organisational culture and performance management
· Enjoy an unrestricted 360° view of their operational environment at all times (social, economic, political, rights issues, etc.)
· Understand the importance of stakeholder engagement, and
· Be led by good, ethically grounded leaders who lead by example and embody the company/organisation’s values.
Countries are also brands, including South Africa.
They exist in an increasingly competitive environment for global business, investors, tourists, lucrative foreign students, and an array of other benefits that only come to the most appealing and attractive destination brands.
Country brands must also satisfy the brand requirements mentioned above. Again, South Africa is not an exception.
If anything, SA was once an emerging country brand leader with the gaze of the world directed at it, at the dawn of democracy.
Many in the region, the continent and the broader world – especially the African diaspora around the globe – once viewed it as a modern African economy that would demonstrate to the world that Africans have what it takes to lead a highly industrialised country.
Further, that it could move toward leading roles in many areas of human achievement: the sciences, human and economic development, the protection of threatened human, floral, faunal, and micro-biological life and communities (rights issues), and rules-driven leadership.
There was an expectation that SA would prove wrong all the “Africa skeptics” who thought otherwise and stated for the whole world to hear that it would only be a matter of time before South Africa, under black rule, normalised the same way that many African countries had gone since the years of independence, in the early 1960s.
We all know what that means.
Watching South Africa over the past 10 years, and listening to the confusing messages we have sent out, makes one’s heart bleed. This is especially true of the wanton disregard and ill-informed questioning of the sacrifices made by great South Africans like Nelson Mandela, Walter and Albertina Sisulu, John Langalibalele Dube, Sefako Mapogo Makgatho, Zaccheus Richard Mahabane, Josiah Gumede, Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Dr Alfred Bitini Xuma, James Moroka, Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, Lillian Ngoyi, Ruth First, Helen Joseph, Adelaide Tambo, Dulcie September, Zainab Asvat, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Ruth Alexander, Steve Biko, Frances Baard, Njongonkulu Ndungane, Amina Cachalia, Sheena Duncan, Desmond Tutu, Chris Hani, Nadine Gordimer, Ingrid Jonker, David Webster, Miriam Makeba, Ellen Kuzwayo, Beyers Naudé, Antjie Krog, Charlotte Maxeke, Ruth Mompati, Victoria Mxenge, Duma Nokwe, Rick Turner, Sister Bernard Ncube, Father Michael Lapsley, Gertrude Shope, Helen Suzman, Robert Sobukwe, and AnnMarie and Harold Wolpe.
Not to mention the many young white South Africans who paid dearly for refusing to serve in the apartheid army by becoming conscientious objectors, and many others across our land and in the diaspora whose sacrifices made it possible for us to cross our Rubicon.
The values of South Africa’s democratic dispensations were carefully crafted with these considerations: the lasting horrors and pain of apartheid, on one hand and, on the other hand, the promise we made to ourselves and to the rest of the world to do all we can to hold hands from across all historic divides, no matter the effort it would always require, and to build together; to build a more united, forgiving, sharing, dynamic country that would be the envy of the entire world. These values are summarised in the preamble to our country’s Constitution.
A new anthem
The growing call by irrational left-wing extremists for the removal of a portion of our national anthem – and thus the breaking of the national vow we took at the dawn of our democracy – should be resisted vehemently.
If anything, we should call for the composition of a new, forward-looking anthem that represents one country, united in its diversity, but determined to be a better home for all.
The preamble to our Constitution could serve as a basis for a composer’s brief for something new and inspiring. There is a lot more magic in these words than many care to think:
“We, the people of South Africa, Recognise the injustices of our past; Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.
We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to –
Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;
Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.
May God protect our people. Nkosi Sikelel’iAfrika. Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso. God seen Suid Afrika. God bless South Africa. Mudzimu fhatutshedza Afurika. Hosi Katekisa Afrika.”
Integrating the essence of these words in a new national anthem would ensure we’re constantly reminded of who are, where we come from and of the strategic vision of our country, the realisation of which should forever remain at the core of our national pact.