The good people at Standard & Poor's may not be aware of all our resources
- Johann Redelinghuys
- 29 Jan 2013 02:24 (South Africa)
No doubt they have at Standard & Poor’s all the state-of-the-art economic forecasting technologies and rocket scientists who can read the economic bones. But when looking beyond all the ratios and hard numbers, one wonders if they have taken into account the human “software” of the country’s ability to borrow money internationally; the capacity of its business leaders to manage and work around the social dynamics that give them such angst. As anyone in corporate finance will tell you, when considering a merger or acquisition it is critical not only to look at the numbers and the facts, but also to get an understanding of the people of the business. The character of the person is a crucial element of their credit worthiness.
So how bankable are South Africans? And how trustworthy are we when we go into the international money markets to borrow money? Forget for a moment how flawed our political leadership may be and take account of the human material below the visible peaks of leaders whose comings and goings are the forage of the media. Unlike many of S&P’s triple A-rated countries,we are a people who grow up dealing with deep social and ethnic complexity. We understand what it’s like to live life with 11 official languages, multiple race groups and the need to constantly cross-reference the obtuse layers of our society no matter what we’re busy with. We have also learned the trick of playing off two or more conflicting scripts at the same time. There is never just one reality. Look at how President Jacob Zuma, this last week in Davos, extolled peaceful South Africa as a great, “investor friendly” opportunity while at the very same time, here at home, we were in the middle of the Western Cape labour turmoil with large scale looting and destruction of property in Sasolburg. South Africans don’t find this unusual or difficult to deal with. Paradox is what we do.
The president and his substantial entourage participated in a session at Davos where their subject was the “de-risking” of Africa as an investment opportunity. Amid the impressive statistics he quoted of growth and accelerated output, mentioning six of the world’s fastest growing national economies being in Africa, the rest of us were watching the BBC’s footage of the war in Mali and the other ethnic and religious conflicts of the continent.
Standard & Poor’s should also remember that South Africans have an emotional hardiness and an ability to get on with their lives that comes from years of living with violent crime, some of the highest rates of murder and rape, child molestation, corruption and social disintegration. It scares the hell out of our more tender-minded friends and relatives in the gentler countries of Europe and the Commonwealth that we tough it out and pick ourselves up from whatever crime episode we have been the victim of, and then get going again. Every family has a story, yet we forge on and invest ourselves into the process of getting over it and going forward. This resilience is one of the great assets of the country and gives it much strength. People in the triple A-rated countries like Sweden and Switzerland and the UK fall apart when they experience crime or urban mayhem, South Africans just box on.Don’t talk to us about scary “social dynamics”.
It is our magnificent adaptability and capacity to manage life’s complex issues that enables those South Africans who are expats in countries like Australia and Canada, to fight their way up the greasy poles of corporate competition, and end up taking charge.
If their concern for the “social dynamics” of the country indicates a fear of instability and the risks involved in social change, then welcome to our world; a world that has weathered many lifetimes of social change. Transformation is what we eat and drink and it is the leitmotif of every business these days.
When trying to get a fix on candidates for positions in business leadership we pay special attention to their ability to initiate and manage change. The kind of companies that will be looking at the Standard & Poor’s ratings would not want to invest in a business where the leadership will be de-stabilised by a sudden change in the interest rate, or a collapse in local government’s service delivery, or the behaviour of the unions, or any of the other issues influencing their business including the country’s “social dynamics”. South Africans, especially those in charge of businesses, are used to levels of social change and upheaval that would immobilise people in the smoother running societies.
The pioneering forefathers of all our ethnic groups came to this country out of choice. They were not sent here to get rid of them. The growth and advancement of South African society has always been accompanied by some form of turmoil or conflict. Starting from the various British and Dutch occupations and the sequence of border wars, through to the Boer Wars and the great fight for racial equality and democracy, all of it was eventually resolved through conflict and struggle. At times it must have appeared to outsiders that the country would never find itself and that hatred and revenge would destroy it. And every time it re-gathered itself and, with each push forward, new life began.
We know about pain and sorrow. We also know that to establish ourselves in a prosperous future and to repay our debts, we must continue to do what we have done for centuries, manage and thrive on our “social dynamics”. DM
- The textbook, talented leadership of Mr Julius Malema
- The down – and up – side of recklessness and greed
- Race and gender issues: not going anywhere
- Sloppy board governance: Failing South Africa’s critical executive leadership
- Low efforts, low satisfaction: Combatting the new workplace epidemic
- Shame on the racist rant from the Black Business Council!
- The visits of French president and Polish prime minister: a scattering of welcome fairy dust
- Uncomfortable questions about Sasol’s hired gun
- Manufacturing is not our route to riches
- The Minister is chasing away jobs!
- The Age of the Sovereign Individual is upon us
- ‘I applied my mind’: a welcome comment from the President
- Stressful news about executive stress
- The comic opera at the SABC board plays on
- The right way is not always the best way
- Double benefit of focus on farming
- Indecision is crippling us
- An ‘African MBA’ would be a mistake
- The inequalities of the wage gap won’t go away
- Privileged access: no longer just for the top dogs
- Are there different degrees of CV fraud?
- Is the ‘born free’ generation really so free?
- Labour Brokers are here to stay
- Unemployment can be beaten
- Top CEOs are feeling the pinch
- Performance anxiety: The curse of our time
- Black Economic (Dis)empowerment: It’s time to rethink our strategy
- Why mobile phones are more important than toilets
- She was a lady with a vision
- South Africa should beef up its strengths
- Jacko Maree has failed in the most important task of a CEO
- Bridging the gap: Time to embrace immigrant skills
- Gender diversity on boards still undermined by stereotyping, male-dominated networks
- Be careful what you wish for
- Please stop the mindless nonsense of trying to ‘create’ entrepreneurs to satisfy some extravagant political agenda!
- The heavy hand of government is everywhere
- The good people at Standard & Poor's may not be aware of all our resources
- Our systems of education and first-rung employment are broken
- Only disruptive leadership can achieve real change
- 'Shooting from the hip' is now the norm - and deeply damaging
- Our leaders' confused moral compass
- Government ownership: Watch out for the collapse of independence
- US and South Africa: Leading in disaster and disastrous leadership
- CEO departures and the 'perfect storm' in the boardroom
- You can't play the 'happy game' without hope and expectations
- A major leadership resource, ignored in the new South Africa
- The value of the people who create value
- Living the paradox: Life in South Africa
- A leader without a vision gets nothing done
- It’s spring! It's a good time for cleaning up our act
- So, do we want to be a global player or not?
- Big business: A critical piece missing from Manuel's plan
- Enduring values cannot be legislated
- Being a CEO - and playing the leadership game - is tough
- Career Management 101: Don't send a CV!
- The shifting sands of executive payouts
- The Perils of “Young Blood”
- Gender Diversity: Good for Business
- Nationhood: Our fragile national self-esteem
- Employment: Make Peace with the Gig Economy
- Crime is not the real fear of white people
- Dilemmas of the South African Diaspora
- Be careful what you use to vote for whom, and when and why
- Golden Schmolden Years
- Beware the Psychopaths
- Executive salaries are determined by supply and demand. It's not a conspiracy
- Reckless transformation is doing great damage
- Listen and stay close to your stakeholders
- Career Management 2020
- The New Non-Executive Director
- Working on a resolution toward a 'portfolio life'
- Facing the dilemmas of succession
- The misguided notion of 'job creation'
- High CEO turnover and the role of the chairman
- Life starts at 60, and not only for Alan Knott-Craig
- African leaders are misguided when they try to hold on to Africa for the Africans