Politically connected BEE players losing status
Black economic empowerment business leaders who succeeded in the past predominantly through political clout rather than entrepreneurial initiative are no longer regarded as iconic, according to a study of leaders released on Sunday by the Reputation Institute SA.
The RepTrak Leader SA 2012 survey, conducted among 1,304 economically active people, rated the leadership qualities of the top business, political and BEE figures in SA.
It found there had been a huge shift in the reputations of BEE business leaders from similar surveys conducted previously.
Mining magnate Patrice Motsepe achieved the highest score in the survey, at 64,56, while BEE leaders Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Saki Macozoma were placed 13th, 15th and 16th respectively with scores of 55,54 (Ramaphosa), 54,75 (Sexwale) and 54.74 (Macozoma).
In overall second place was general secretary of the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (Cosatu) Zwelinzima Vavi (61.17).
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, with a rating of 59.93, was overall third, with MTN CEO Sifiso Dabengwa (59.38) and SABMiller CEO Graham Mackay (59.31) in fourth and fifth places, respectively.
Reputation Institute SA’s MD and senior lecturer in strategy at Wits Business School, Dr Dominik Heil, said: “In previous surveys, BEE leaders were overall seen as iconic, and as a vivid demonstration that the ordinary person could make it to the top of the pile.
“Whereas this is presumably still true for Patrice Motsepe, the prominent players in the BEE space who are seen to have gotten there predominantly through political clout rather than entrepreneurial initiative are no longer regarded as proxies for people’s aspirations and are now in the middle of the spectrum,” Dr Heil said.
“Despite their philanthropic initiatives, they have failed to convince the public that their involvement in the economy has helped to build a more equitable society or has benefited South Africans at large. This provides an opportune moment for a new conversation about making BEE work for those in real need of empowerment.”
All those surveyed were living standards measure 6 and above, had some level of education, and lived mostly in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape. In order to qualify to participate in the survey respondents had to be “somewhat” or “very familiar” with a leader to provide a rating.
BEE leaders surveyed were chosen after a combination of a preliminary qualitative research on top-of-mind familiarity about beneficiaries of BEE deals, and a Google search on number of mentions of these candidates to verify their prominence.
With an average score of 49.4, politicians in SA performed better than other world political leaders (who scored 43.20 in a similar survey in 2011), while South African business CEOs, with an average score of 55.68, fared worse than the global average for business leaders of 59.80.
Dr Heil said the study aimed to give an informed baseline to the debate about the kind of leadership needed in SA to achieve a shared vision of society.
“It was interesting for us at Reputation Institute to see that overall there is no strong inherent bias for or against political or business leaders as such, and that you could find people of different sectors, gender and races at the top, in the middle and at the bottom of the pile,” he said.
Dr Heil said it was an important aspect of any leader not just to fulfil their managerial tasks, but also to manage appropriately the perceptions among the public and stakeholders.
“SA comes from a long history of leaders who are holding themselves accountable to cliques rather than society at large,” he said.
The study found that in the context of the current debate on CEO remuneration, there seemed to be no inherent bias against well-paid or rich leaders. The issue seemed to be rather whether business leaders contributed to value creation in a way that justified their financial reward.
“Those leaders who have done well in the survey seemingly demonstrate a good understanding of the space that they occupy in society and are perceived to occupy it with vision, integrity and in a way that earns respect, even if people don’t agree with everything they say or do,” Dr Heil concluded.