Corporate Guerrillas

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Corporate transformation in South Africa remains as one of the greatest challenges in unlocking the true potential of our human capital and economy. Business is central to sustaining society and at the heart of business is management control. The Black Management Forum has been focused in developing and advocating for the creation of a critical mass of black managers and leaders who will utilise their talent in leading complex business environments and striving for economic inclusion which can lead to economic growth.

Corporate Guerrillas

The Black Management Forum has been a home to many progressive ideas and concepts, and “Corporate Guerrillas” is but another concept which was coined by the late Don Mkhwanazi. This concept was a response to the socio-political discourse on the role of black managers in the struggle for political freedom. Raging debates went on to ascertain whether black managers were indeed struggling for the emancipation of black people and how the relationship between black managers, black workers and white leaders intersected. Black managers were seen as sell outs who represent their white bosses, but unknown to them was the abuse suffered under white leadership in business which was under reported till this day. Amongst some workplace atrocities, White bosses would force black managers to behave like tea ladies and tirelessly endeavour to break their confidence in management. Therefore, Corporate Guerrillas are black managers and leaders who drive the agenda of corporate or workplace transformation and struggle for the utilization of black talent in business.

Key CEE Report Issues

The Commission for Employment Equity has released its 21st Report which continues to highlight the statistics of around progress on equitable movement in the workplace. This year’s report is no different in its findings, where we continue to see the presence of white men still dominating top echelons of leadership. Whites have a 64.7%, 52.5%, 32.1%, 17.6%, in the top, senior, middle and junior management levels, respectively. Whilst Africans have a 15.8%, 24.7%, 46.7%, 63.7%, in the top, senior, middle and junior management levels, respectively. In the senior and top management levels Africans remain grossly under-represented and under-utilised. There is some presence from junior to middle management levels for Africans, though not where it needs to be, however the report has deeper issues that need to be brough to book.

Secondly, the report highlights that Whites and Indians in the senior and top management levels are geared up for success through promotion, recruitment, and training. This mindset of setting up Whites and Indians for success is unacceptable and continues to hinder the advancement of Africans in leadership in business. This also is the remnant of old order thinking which was dominant in the 1980’s that Africans cannot be entrusted with key positions of responsibility in business.

Thirdly, the report highlights that the situation in the private sector is more dire. Africans at junior, middle, senior, and top management levels have a 54.5%, 21.4%, 18% and 12.7% representation, respectively. Africans remain outside of key management levels in the private sector forcing them to move to other business types in the country in the top four management levels. The private sector is the core of the economy having the ability to produce more that 70% of all GDP in the country, therefore, these numbers are clearly exposing the lack of corporate transformation and the entrenchment of White leadership.

Fourthly, the report highlights that the Department of Employment and Labour together with the Commission for Employment Equity have been engaging different sectors about setting sector targets for employment equity. The consultations form part of the EE Amendment Bill which is suggesting that the Minister should be given powers to set sector targets and promulgate section 53 of the Act which will allow government to issue a certificate of compliance. It is critical for all black lobby groups to support these two key suggestions and be as bold as the “corporate guerrillas” of the 1980’s in advocating for them to be enacted by parliament. In addition to this, businesses should score higher on the B-BBEE Scorecard for management control. Currently, management control is not part of the top three priorities of B-BBEE, which are Ownership, Skills Development and Enterprise and Supplier Development. Skills development impacts management control directly, but management control has not been given its prominence and importance, for management control is the heart of business.            

Conclusion

The South African business landscape needs more corporate guerrillas who will stand firm for the development and advancement of Africans in business. Who will articulate their views in the lack of African leadership development, and creating space for this talent to emerge and shine. Through the EE Amendment Bill transformation can be radically advanced, but apart from the legislation amendments, the power of corporate guerrillas remains in the hands of individual African leaders and all the black lobby groups. No business will survive in South Africa if they do not transform, and this lack of meaningful transformation will undermine our democratic order.  

 

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