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It’s about the mice-catching cat, not its colour

CITIZEN.CO.ZA / 14 FEBRUARY 2019 - 09.15 / BRIAN SOKUTU

Unless we take heed of Mandela’s advice on the insignificance of the colour of the cat, we will not get out of this economic quagmire.

Nelson Mandela, whose foresight and wisdom we shall continue to treasure in celebrating his legacy, once remarked: “I don’t care whether the cat is black or white, as long as it can catch mice.”

A freight train leaves the Eskom power plant in Hendrina on February 22, 2018, after having discharged its load of coal. Picture: MARCO LONGARI / AFP

Mandela had a rare gift of being able to handpick individuals who would help him lead and govern the country – whether in sport, politics or business.

In his cat reference, Mandela did not literally mean the much-loved pet roaming in most of our homes and neighbourhoods. He referred to men and women with potential – across race, tribe, colour or creed – who would assist in taking the country forward by playing a meaningful role.

As we head for the 25th anniversary of our democracy and are about to go to the polls, Mandela’s values and teachings have not found much resonance – especially when you look at widespread corruption, senior appointments made in government and in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) like SA Airways, Prasa, Eskom and Denel.

While black economic empowerment (BEE) and employment equity (EE) were designed to be used as mechanisms to redress decades of apartheid imbalances, the current sorry state of our SOEs, which lack leadership and technical expertise, simply means BEE and EE have achieved the opposite.

Whether you are black or white, it has become difficult to be awarded a clean government tender without any form of underhandedness; of “looking after” those who decided on which company should be selected.

For young entrepreneurs – with brilliant ideas and expertise – the curse of not knowing any of the decision-makers, some of whom sit on tender committees, is enough to count them out of any tender race.

Whether you are in the business of construction, catering, plumbing, security services or supply of toilet paper, for many young business people it has become a waste of time to submit a tender document in response to a government advert because there are already individuals and companies earmarked.

The same goes for jobs and the choice of individuals.

I have respect for Eskom chief executive Phakamani Hadebe, a highly educated man with a deep financial, corporate and leadership background. For him to turn the power utility around requires engineering support.

Eskom is not like any other corporate but a highly technical animal that needs engineers with years of experience who know what they are doing.

Top engineering skills would have come in handy to avert the current crisis Eskom and the country finds itself in, but they left these shores many years ago for Europe and Australia.

Had we kept these engineers – who were mostly white – to ensure skills transfer to EE candidates, we would surely not be where we are today.

The same can be said of Prasa, which has become a shadow of its former self – the efficiently-run SA Railways.

Unless we take heed of Mandela’s advice on the insignificance of the colour of the cat, we will not get out of this economic quagmire.

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LINK : https://citizen.co.za/news/opinion/opinion-columns/2082654/its-about-the-mice-catching-cat-not-its-colour/

Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER

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