By George W Nyabadza
IF I was to choose a leadership theme that in my view has had the most significant impact on southern Africa in the past two years and one that is likely to continue to be most dominant
over the next five years I would have to say it is the issue of transfer of wealth from the minority to the majority, be it Zimbabwe’s land redistribution efforts or South Africa’s black economic empowerment (BEE) drive.
In the same vein on the corporate side Zimbabwe’s own BEE efforts have almost come full circle with the challenging times of the past few years as the financial system has teetered on the brink due to very interesting dealings by a few empowered individuals within the industry. If one accepts the oft-repeated statistic that indicates that close to 60% of Africa’s economic activity and wealth is centred on Gauteng you can begin to appreciate the value of wealth that is expected to transfer ownership.
The reason I would choose these structural changes as the theme of the moment is the covert implications of the processes on the future stability of our region. In my view southern Africa’s leadership needs to think through a process that will permanently address the issues of equitable wealth redistribution.
I have often engaged in heated debate with both my Zimbabwean and South African colleagues who are close to both the business and political action and questioned whether anyone is really taking regard of the masses. I have sought, with regard to the South African debate, to draw parallels to the events of the past few years in Zimbabwe where a minority of businesspeople have so abused the system that with greed blinding all reason and principles of fairness and equity, they have robbed the “life energy” of the masses that had been entrusted as deposits to some black-owned financial institutions.
In South Africa an elite black minority class that has access to the high corridors of power is locking up all the mega deals by becoming the sole empowerment partners of choice, and publicly dismissing claims for uplifting the lot of the poor in the process.
In the face of what has become a standard response, at least amongst the more well-connected members of the circle of colleagues, I have challenged what is put across as capitalism and free market play. Indeed it may be classified as such but in a country where there are over 30 million marginalised people (of all races) what may be accepted as the fair gains of capitalism today will certainly be the recipe of civil discontent in the near future. Already we are hearing significant grumblings from all sectors of society about the fairness of the wealth redistribution process.
I am firm believer that the potential that lies in this region if properly harnessed can create a powerful economic hub that will be the engine for Africa’s transformation. Once upon a time Zimbabwe was Africa’s breadbasket in spite of a powerful industrialised neighbour like South Africa. I am a firm believer that the more people that become economically active in any country the higher the rate of growth that economy will experience.
So I continue to argue my case with my South African colleagues that sustainable growth for the nation, within the African context, will not come from an enriched minority but will be as a result of empowering as many of the masses as possible and enabling them to participate more fully in the economy. This region can be a powerful determinant of Africa’s future if our leadership will today establish processes that will minimise the risk of societal discontent in the future.
The free market is all and good but I argue that it will only work if you have created structures that enable whosoever wills to participate in economic activity and not just the “empowered minority”. That is a recipe for disaster. Zimbabwe’s financial crisis is a keen example.
*South African-based George W Nyabadza is the chief executive officer of Achievement Success Dynamics International. For more information on leadership development programmes please visit our website www.achievement-success.com or e-mail George on firstname.lastname@example.org