Mohale’s blueprint for a better South Africa
After two years at the helm of Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), Bonang Mohale is handing the organisation over to the former chief operations officer, Busisiwe Mavuso, to follow his dream of becoming a farmer.
He said Mavuso, previously the managing director of the Black Management Forum, is more than ready to lead the organisation. She holds an Association of Chartered Certified Accountants qualification, as well as a Master in Business Leadership. Her predecessor said she is passionate about driving social justice, which is well aligned with BLSA’s mission. Mohale believes in using his time, energy and effort to make the world a better place. In the pursuit of this ideal, he has produced some spectacularly good results in the various positions he has held.Founded in 1960, BLSA currently has 86 CEOs on its council. They meet regularly to see what contributions they can make to growing the economy. Mohale said the work that BLSA does is truly phenomenal. He explained that it is financially 10 times better off than it was in its early days.“We now have reserves in excess of R50 million, cash in excess of R20 million and we are positioned to go to war with those who chose to dance with the devil,” he said.
Hard work does not go unrewarded
Mohale has of late received a number of awards, including the Free Market Foundation 10th Luminary Award for his contribution to South Africa’s business community and defending the rights of all South Africans; the Brand South Africa Influencer of Influencers award; as well as Forbes Woman Africa Male Gender Advocate Award for the role he plays in empowering women. He said he would not have been able to achieve the awards had it not been for the great team that surrounds him.
“We drove transformation with singularity of purpose, and it is contained in our BLSA strategy, which speaks about inclusive socio-economic growth and transformation, the protection of key state institutions and positioning business as a national asset,” he said.
“We also forced business to go and find its voice and stand up against corruption, bribery, stealing and cheating by speaking up at the State Capture Inquiry, because business has a huge collective voice, resources and know-how, employing 13.5 million people; government employs 2.3 million people,” he added.
He said he has always been a change agent, a democracy fighter and a social justice champion.
He acknowledges that not all sectors have succeeded in eradicating the legacy of apartheid and believes that business must lead in trying to reverse that legacy.
“Poverty still has a black and feminine face and, to some extent, where you are born determines whether or not you are going to succeed, rather than your level of education or capabilities,” he said.
He believes in being absolutely explicit about how the South African economy was brought to its knees.
“A CEO also has to reimagine and redefine the role of business. Firstly, business has to survive and that means making money. Then it has to deliver on the notion of shared value with labour, civil society and government,” he said.
According to Mohale, trust in government is currently less than 15 percentage points, which is an all-time low. In order to turn things around, Mohale said government has to deliver on its promises.
“For many years we have been saying the right things about transformation and gender equality but 25 years into democracy, we are still battling with these. In 2019, we still have women who are paid 76 percent of what men are paid for equal work, women representation in positions of leadership is less than 24 percent and black people’s representation in the C-suite was 14.3 percent in the past year and has come down to 14.2 percent, so we are going the wrong direction,” he said.
A couple of years ago, BLSA established a partnership with government, civil society and labour in order to attack big challenges facing South Africa, such as social cohesion, inequality, unemployment and poverty.
Mohale said it is concerning that so many South Africans are unemployed and excluded, with zero assets. A significant portion of the population are blue-collar workers and slightly less than 10 percent make up the middle-class. The elite makes up less than one percent of the population.
“The majority of people still live in abject poverty,” he said, explaining that better service delivery, especially in the key areas of education and health, is essential to addressing this crisis.
He said corruption is a big problem because it robs people of services that they deserve and delays the country’s progress by channelling funds away from essential programmes.
“Corruption steals disproportionately from the poor. Corruption that happens in the private sector is sad, tragic and regrettable – it has the effect of tainting the whole business,” he said, adding that trillions are lost to corruption in both government and the private sector.
“We must convince our people by speaking honestly, clearly and unambiguously, that the future is substantially better than the past; that the pain of change is much less than the pain of staying the same.”
As society transforms and more industries are created, which are able to employ more people, the economy will grow and lend itself to the redistribution of wealth, he believes.
Mohale said this Mandela Month, everyone should double their efforts to realise the South Africa that we have been praying for, the country of Nelson Mandela’s dreams where everyone enjoys equal rights, non-racialism and a transformed economy in which the ownership and positions of leadership are reflective of society’s diversity.
He said BLSA has a responsibility to be a trusted adviser to government.
From medicine to business to farming
Mohale was born in Benoni in Ekurhuleni but his family moved to Katlehong when he was about five years old.
He went to Wits Medical School after matric. “I wanted to be a medical doctor so I obtained my MBBCh from the University of the Witwatersrand,” he said.
However, he never practiced medicine. After completing his qualifications, he started off as a sales representative at Pfizer South Africa where he worked for five years before his career took off. In the years to come, he help top positions at Drake & Scull FM SA (PTY) Ltd, Sanlam, South African Airways and OTIS (PTY) Ltd.
Before joining BLSA, he spent eight years as the Group CEO of Shell Downstream South Africa (Pty) Limited.
Mohale said he will be following a long-time dream by venturing into farming. He hopes that his new endeavour will provide numerous jobs for young, unemployed people.