Tantaswa Fubu is Barloworld’s Group Executive: Human Capital and Transformation. Picture: Supplied
Tantaswa Fubu is Barloworld’s Group Executive: Human Capital and Transformation. Picture: Supplied

An urgent reset needed for equality for all

By IOL Time of article published Nov 2, 2021

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By Tantaswa Fubu

In July, as the malls burnt and looters filled the streets, we were reminded, yet again, of just how unequal we are as South Africans.

The unrest swept our nation, killing hundreds and destroying billions of rands worth of property.

It was a tussle between the haves and the have nots - a wake-up call to South Africans that if we continue on this path we are set to fail.

We need to admit that attempts to transform South Africa into a more equal society are not working at the pace we need.

That we, 27 years on, have a situation in this country where few are swimming in a sea of opulence, surrounded by increasing poverty.

All you need to do is look at the statistics.

Youth unemployment in the second quarter of 2021 stood at just over 64%.

South Africa continues to be one of the most unequal countries in the world and the Covid-19 pandemic is pushing more South Africans into poverty.

What we need is a reset.

We need to broaden the centre of opulence and bring people in from the periphery.

It is time for businesses to do things differently, as a business we need to care about the sustainability of this country, as much as we care about the bottom lines of the companies we lead.

Now is the time to work towards a better South Africa.

It is time to be concerned with nation-building.

We can only build this nation through a transformation where everyone has the opportunity for their talents to flower.

We have to ensure that all South Africans are well presented wherever you look.

Only through persistent, deliberate change can we create dishomogeneous groupings and – as psychologists stress time and time again – dishomogeneous teams are the best performing teams.

We need to ask: What is the right thing to do for our country?

Admittedly, most transformation efforts so far have not yielded the intended results.

They’ve been bastardised, and where the basic premise of transformation for me is excellence, what has transpired has made people start questioning whether transformation is tantamount to mediocrity.

I believe at it's core, for transformation to work, excellence must be given.

It is with this excellence mindset that we launched various initiatives at Barloworld to better serve our communities and help usher in a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

We currently have three group initiatives that are geared towards doing just that.

The first of these is Barloworld Siyakhula, which is there to assist up-and-coming entrepreneurs. We know that entrepreneurs in small and medium enterprises often have difficulty in accessing funds, markets and managing their businesses.

Because we understand what the small and micro businesses struggle with, we decided to assist in exactly those pain points, ensuring that they have access to funding (grants and non-interest-bearing loans).

We further open up Barloworld as a market to such entities, incorporating them into our supply chain. This ensures that they are sustainable and can and do thrive into the future. Doing business with Barloworld, a listed entity, is also great for their profiles and gives confidence to other companies that would want to do business with them.

We also help with the management of their businesses, as we know that the downfall sometimes is the lack of “practice/business management”.

In 2019 we launched Barloworld Mbewu.

Mbewu, is a Xhosa word for a ‘seed” and as the name suggests, the Mbewu programme’s intention is to sow seeds of change to ensure a better future for our communities by providing support to social enterprises and start-ups that work innovatively to solve challenges in society through their entrepreneurial activities.

The programme seeks to drive economic sustainability, transformation and growth through development, funding and facilitating access to markets for small and medium-sized enterprises.

We have the belief that communities know their problems best and often have the best solutions for these problems.

The beauty around this programme is that it capacitates social entrepreneurs, through the training and mentorship that we provide.

Our flagship programme is our Broad-Based Black Empowerment share scheme, called Khula Sizwe. With Khula Sizwe, we sought to create long-lasting generational wealth for black people in South Africa. For us, this is a legacy project and the types of investees we managed to get helped us in ensuring that a vast majority of black people, and in instances young people, are investing without the exposure to share price changes of Barloworld.

The question we are now grappling with, and we need to grapple with as South African corporates, is what do we do in light of the recent unrest?

What is our commitment to reducing the inequality gap such that our people do not feel the necessity to go out in the streets, to go to the malls and loot?

What is the role of Business South Africa in righting the wrongs that our communities are still trying to deal with?

What is it going to take to deal with the systemic issues that South Africans continue to face?

When our children ask us in the future: “Mother, when this happened, what did you do?” What will our response be?

This is important if only for selfish reasons of our own survival and the survival of our children.

My anxiety is that my children, our children, will face a far worse problem than I am facing now if we do not get involved in changing the economic landscape of our country. I don’t want them asking “where was mum when all of this was happening and what was she doing about it?”

I would love to be part of building this nation, to make sure that South Africa remains a great country, one that all of our children can be proud of.

*Fubu is Barloworld’s Group Executive: Human Capital and Transformation.

** The views expressed here may not necessarily be those of IOL.

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