ETHICS | Have we lost hope?


Terrance M. Booysen | Chief Executive Officer | CGF Research Institutemail me | 








and peer reviewed by David Loxton | Chief Executive Officer | Africa Forensics & Cybermail me |

Being able to speak the truth, without the fear of being intimidated or being politically incorrect is a liberty that sets a person free, both physically and psychologically. However, this attribute is increasingly more difficult to find in the leadership and structures of the ‘new’ democratic South Africa.

This is ironic, in fact also bizarre and especially so in a country equipped with a Constitution that is considered to be one of the best in the world. But are the people of South Africa truly as liberated as they think they are, or are we slowly but surely sinking into the abyss of lower moral standards with most people too scared to speak out, and act decisively against the cancerous rot of corruption and unethical leadership?

Media headlines; what are they really telling us?

There are daily occurrences of news headlines conveying stories of leaders being caught out on the wrong side of good governance practices.

Whether it’s about previously convicted fraudsters such as Tony Yengeni’s recent appointment as chairman of the ANC’s Working Group on Crime and Corruption, or President Cyril Ramaphosa not acting decisively against his ‘ANC Top Six’ who appointed Yengeni to this position; nothing is being said or done about the many questionable poor governance actions or unethical decisions being taken.

This is deeply troubling against the back-drop of what all South Africans were hoping for and which was encapsulated in Ramaphosa’s ‘new dawn’ mantra, especially when reading the following headline; ‘Ramaphoria’s greatest challenge: sentencing the corrupt’, which essentially is not happening.

All decision-makers, whether in the public or private sector, are collectively responsible for the wellbeing of all South Africans, and to this end we should demonstrate an intolerance against misbehaviour.”

Trevor Manuel, Chairman of Old Mutual Group Holdings & former South African Minister of Finance (2018)

What’s happened to our ethical values and moral compass that causes the truth of our feelings to be so deeply suppressed, knowing full well that our societal standards are being lowered each day? Whilst a few civic organisations such as OUTA (The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse) and Corruption Watch are examples of some of the visible non-profit organisations trying to make a difference to beat this horrific scourge, we have to admit that their hard-fought battles for ethical behavior are hardly making a difference to the lives of many millions of people.

Without greater civic activism and financial support to equip these afore-mentioned institutions, including a renewed energy from those citizens demanding ethical leadership and ethical outcomes in the top structures of our government, corporate businesses, religious institutions and sporting bodies, these noble efforts and indeed these organisations, will simply fade away.

It takes great courage and boldness to call out poor leaders and their poor governance practices, and when leaders of any kind operate with double-standards or hidden agendas, this too must be questioned, and stopped; especially in a society that wants to uphold the virtues found in our Constitution.

On the whole, we do not see that many business or religious leaders, nor the judiciary, actually demonstrating against a system which has become so deeply flawed and infested by corruption. Our leaders, who are meant to protect and serve the nation, are most notably missing and their silence is deafening.

Of course, it stands to reason that when good people do not make their voices heard, ethically defunct leaders seem to become more brazen, and a lot more arrogant, believing that they are untouchable and that they can simply continue their wilful poor governance practices.

As a point in case, newly appointed Global Managing Partner of Mckinsey – Kevin Sneader – arrogantly believed a simple ‘sorry’, as a part of the global consulting firm’s apology to South Africans would amend the massive damage the consulting firm had caused by their own greed within Eskom; this being just one casualty in the ‘state capture’ saga.

“A strong, positive culture is an important asset of any organisation that should be supported and protected. It is not merely a ‘soft’ issue of interest to investors and the media; rather, it can be critical to the company’s growth and performance.”

Corporate Culture Risk and the Board Deloitte (2018)

Sneader believed that Mckinsey’s untenable role and massive damages caused, could be rectified by defending their position. He thought that by saying ‘sorry’ and paying a lump sum of over-charged consulting fees, would make the firm’s problems disappear. However, stakeholders appear not to have accepted Sneader’s apology. Clearly, as there were no proper consequences, or any Mckinsey employees beingpublicly held to account, the attempted whitewash failed.

Indeed, the media headlines said it all in the caption: ‘Mckinsey’s global chief’s Joburg gamble backfires. Spectacularly’.

Have South Africans lowered their expectations?

Is the public shocked and outraged by these headlines, or has this state of poor governance now become the new ‘normal’ in South Africa? As concerned citizens and as the stakeholders in the future of our country, we should be demanding explanations, rectifications and transparency from our leadership – be they in government or in business.

As the governance of our leadership continues to decline the facts clearly show how billions of Rands have been squandered for the benefit of a few corrupt individuals, whose names appear regularly in the news. Let’s face it, there’s a herd of elephants in the room which few people are willing to address, including how ordinary people are being negatively impacted.

In truth, one must question whether enough concerned citizens, or for that matter civic action groups, are speaking with a united voice in order to put an immediate stop to this endless and brazen looting?

South African government being held to account

Despite the many examples where government officials have been caught on the wrong side of ethical behavior, there have been very few occasions where the individual has been hauled over the coals. Perhaps even worse, many politicians and their parties

The full article is reserved for our subscribers!

Read this article by Terrance M. Booysen, Chief Executive Officer, CGF Research Institute and David Loxton, Chief Executive Officer, Africa Forensics & Cyber, as well as a host of other topical management articles written by professionals, consultants and academics in the August/September 2018 edition of BusinessBrief.

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  1. This is an excellent article. I commend the authors. I wish to extend the ambit of this vexing issue to include the conduct of the attorneys and advocates representing the many scoundrels and thieves implicated in state capture cases including the many other corruption cases currently plaguing South Africa. Counsel are not permitted to advance a case that he/she knows to be false or where there are no facts to underpin the legal conclusion. One needs to look no further than the recent scathing judgment of Judge Robert Nugent destroying the senior counsel acting for the erstwhile SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane. Nugent described the counsel’s submission to him as “disgraceful”, “loose with facts” and “littered with abuse, invective and sinister suggestions”. Then there was the case of a prominent senior advocate taking R500,000 in cash as a ‘gift’ from his Client. Counsel fees can only be paid by the attorney directly to the counsel, not the Client, and the payment must be into a bank account. Gifts must be declared to the Bar Counsel. Where is the moral compass? Where is the ethical code to which lawyers are bound? The overarching question is this: are these lawyers being paid with the proceeds of a crime when they represent these criminals?

  2. Everything has become so grey…and what was considered highly unethical in years gone by, now suddenly seems perfectly acceptable! The double standards of so-called ‘good governance’ and ‘ethical leadership’ being practiced is simply unbelievable. Sadly, there are no signs of this being rectified from the top leadership echelons.


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