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Change the world


Nelson Mandela Bay has descended into a city under siege if the rampant killings that have gripped the metro are anything to go by.

It is a city in which greed and competitive rivalry over resources have depreciated the value for human life.

The killing of business leaders Xola Ngcangca and Ulundi Mpulu, with his associate Siyabulela Olayi, are the latest in a series of murders that have cumulatively made the city akin to a war zone.

As with many others who have died, the businessmen were not only the pride of their families, but had devoted their lives to community development.

The words of Dr Gloria Serobe at the launch of the inaugural Archbishop Thabo Makgoba annual lecture on values based leadership should ring a bell on our collective conscience in a society of poor values and moral degeneration such as this. We have become a society that needs urgent intervention to change the abysmal trajectory we seem to be on.

Speaking at the event held at the Nelson Mandela University recently, Serobe cast a vision for a different society; a vision led by not only competent and excellent leaders, but one grounded in humane values too.

Serobe is the founding member and CEO of Wiphold, the first women-owned company to be listed on the JSE.

In 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed her as chair of the Solidarity Response Fund, formed in response to the scourge of the Covid-19 pandemic.

She is also the trustee of the Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust.

Serobe outlined five areas in which values-based leadership could be applied, including authenticity, excellence, inclusivity, morals, ethics, and governance, spirituality and Christian values.

Authenticity includes relating with others from the perspective of full acceptance of who we are, our background and shortcomings, and finding the inherent riches that may be tied up in it all, rather than basing our sense of value on falsehoods.

This may include appreciating a rural background, one’s identity and other aspects of who one is, even if they are often associated with shame.

Authenticity allows a person to truly influence their generation; even do something about the disadvantages they experienced to help others.

Her example of this was her acceptance of her rural heritage and how, through Wiphold, she and her colleagues were able to pave a path for women in humble situations to own shares in listed companies.

Many bad attitudes and atrocities have been committed by people who have failed to heal from their experience of a humiliating past and became so uncomfortable with it that they resorted to cutting corners to advance in life.

Serobe’s grandfather, a man of the cloth, had modelled this sense of taking pride in one’s heritage by continuing to maintain his rural home where her commitment to the community was nurtured, despite a good footing in bustling Cape Town.

Excellence includes a life of full commitment to one’s responsibility and a drive to achieve results.

Serobe explained how, as young managers with appropriate qualifications, they were called on to turn around ailing state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the 1990s, and succeeded before the erosion that came in the late 2000s and 2010s.

She recalled how they, as management in Transnet, were shielded from political interference by the then chair of the board, Saki Macozoma, which allowed them to do their jobs well.

Inclusivity underscores the spirit of sharing and mutual commitment that comes with ubuntu. Like they did with Wiphold, she believes an extra mile must be taken to ensure many people in society benefit fairly from the spin-offs of their efforts.

Morals, ethics and governance relate to the need to be transparent and accountable, and held together by common principles that make or break societies.

There is conduct that is socially unacceptable and people must live a life of congruence in terms of which who they purport to be in public corresponds with their conduct when no-one is watching.

Serobe was at pains to explain the importance of spirituality and Christian values in our society, drawing from her experiences growing up and citing the example set by the patron of the lecture, Archbishop Makgoba.

Her grandfather was also well-endowed with resources to not only raise his own children but also his grandchildren, whom he dearly loved.

Leaders who emulate the values stated above are needed in our ailing society.

Proverbs 29:2 captures the relief of South Africans well from their anxiety about the potential looting of disaster relief funds: “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.”

Perhaps it is time, as NMU, that we push collectively for a society of good values and end the mutiny taking place in the streets of our host city.

The Archbishop Thabo Makgoba lecture was held as an initiative of the faculty of humanities.

This aticle appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 8 June 2022 written by Prof Pamela Maseko, Nelson Mandela University’s Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Ongama Mtimka, a lecturer in the Department of History and Political Studies at the University.

Contact information
Dr Ongama Mtimka
Tel: 0415044819

Prof Pamela Maseko
Executive Dean: Faculty of Humanities