About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

11 April 2011

Governor Tito Mboweni

"The title of Governor is for life", even after one retires as the Governor of the South African Reserve Bank, Governor Tito Mboweni hinted in jest, after politely reflecting on yet another change between the private and public sectors. UCT's Black Alumni forum hosted a talk by the ex-governor which in itself was part of a wider UCT Alumni programme for this year. This is the first one I have been to; and it was a very enjoyable evening - particularly because of the Mr Mboweni's honesty and openness in his talk.

The focus was on transformation - but not on the overused word in the South African lexicon. Instead, his talk was about his own life - from a young political activist, to exile, to a minister in the new government, to the central bank governor and finally to life in the private sector. It was given in good humour, with plenty of anecdotes and stories - but at the same time it was inspiring and in some cases brutally honest and very politically incorrect. He did touch on racial transformation - but it was an attack against token appointments, and that true transformation is when there is a positive transformation in quality; not just a new face.

He gave a frank assessment of the problems with South African politicians, and their lack of ethical behaviour; not only in terms of corruption and nepotism but also in terms of service delivery. He had two very distinct, but equally memorable points on politicians - the first, is that politicians should be serving in spite of having other potential jobs; and not because it is the only job available. His rationale there is, that in that case, the chances are that you are doing public service because you want to serve, not because you want to get more money. His second point, was that there is a very distinct change in lifestyle that comes with power, and very few people are equipped to actually deal with that change. The second point is qually relevant outside politics - the fact that people, who have found sudden riches do not always have the capacity to actually manage their new wealth. So, the fact that the politician now has a car or a house, they seem to forget that it is temporary.

Another assessment was that there seems to be a decline in the intellectual capital in the political movements, specifically referring to the ANC. From a time, where the freedom movement was filled with intellectual heavy weights who could argue with reason, his assessment of the current crop of leaders was that they were no longer intellectually arguing their case, but rather stooping to dirty tactics and political games.

In the Q&A session, he answered some very difficult questions, but his assessment of the nationalisation debate was particularly illuminating - especially given his dual role as the Chairman of AngloGold Ashanti and a member of the ANC's national leadership. The nationalisation debate was answered in the early 1990's, and the ANC formally made a decision that it was not in the party's agenda. He takes blame as part of the "older" generation that this was not communicated and disseminated well into the younger members. But he highlighted a number of problems and concerns that have repeatedly hammered South Africa's reputation in the mining sector - from the issue of the mining charter being leaked, to the debacle of the mining license maladministration to the issues with Kumba-Mittal etc. This has not helped the South African brand, and it has not helped the debate. But most tellingly, was his assessment that, despite President Zuma and Matthews Phosa repeatedly stating it was not the government's policy to nationalise, the investors were not buying it. His assessment - in this regard, they are just not trusted, and Malema is; and for a very simple reason. Malema stated that Mbeki would be ousted, and they ANC higher brass denied it. Malema stated that the Scorpions would be disbanded, and it was. So, given that - Malema's word carries a lot more clout than that of the President.

Given his earlier comments on intellectual capital within the ANC, the proliferation of politicians who have lost their ethical compass - it is a stark reminder of what can go wrong. Governor Mboweni was frank in his assessment that the ANC needs to rebuild; but the question I suppose is - how much help does he have?

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