The road to kak­istoc­racy

CEO says SA is five min­utes from disaster and lead­er­ship must wake up

CityPress - - Business - LE­SETJA MALOPE le­setja.malope@city­press.co.za

The ANC needs to wake up to the real­ity of an elec­torate pri­ori­tis­ing service de­liv­ery over loy­alty to struggle cre­den­tials. So says Web­ster Mfebe, CEO of the SA Fed­er­a­tion of Civil En­gi­neer­ing Con­trac­tors, a 78-year-old or­gan­i­sa­tion which rep­re­sents civil engi­neers with ex­per­tise in con­struct­ing roads, bridges, dams and build­ings.

Last month, Mfebe raised eye­brows at a con­struc­tion expo at Gal­lagher Es­tate in Midrand when he de­scribed the coun­try as a “kak­istoc­racy” – mean­ing that the gov­ern­ment was being run by the nation’s worst or least-qual­i­fied cit­i­zens.

This week, Mfebe re­it­er­ated his views dur­ing an in­ter­view with City Press at the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s head of­fice in Bed­ford­view, on Jo­han­nes­burg’s East Rand.

“We must avoid South Africa slid­ing into a kak­istoc­racy be­cause when you be­gin to have part of the lead­er­ship say­ing, ‘if the rand falls, you sim­ply pick it up’ – re­fer­ring to the re­ac­tion by Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion Min­is­ter Nomvula Mokonyane in April to the coun­try’s credit rat­ing hav­ing been down­graded to sub-in­vest­ment grade – that can­not be a prin­ci­pled stance,” Mfebe said.

Asked how close he thought South Africa was to be­com­ing a kak­istoc­racy, with­out hes­i­ta­tion the for­mer ANC MP said: “I think we are five min­utes away from be­com­ing a kak­istoc­racy. Some would ar­gue that we are al­ready in a kak­istoc­racy”.

Ap­pear­ing to take a swipe at the gov­ern­ing party, Mfebe said it did not bode well for politi­cians to be so reck­less.

“Per­cep­tions are more ef­fec­tive than facts,” he said, point­ing out that the ANC Youth League was not helping when it came to po­ten­tial in­vestors’ per­cep­tions of gov­ern­ment.

“When you re­ward them, you re­ward them as a col­lec­tive. Like­wise, when you pun­ish them, you pun­ish as a col­lec­tive,” he said, ad­ding that it was wrong for peo­ple to blame the state of the econ­omy on Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

Mfebe is pas­sion­ate about the qual­ity of lead­er­ship and walks his talk, hav­ing re­ceived a pres­ti­gious Kaelo Award in 2014, which hon­ours suc­cess­ful black en­trepreneurs and se­nior ex­ec­u­tives, for his busi­ness lead­er­ship. He is cur­rently a fi­nal­ist for the Global CEO Award Africa. The win­ner will be an­nounced later this year. Mfebe, known for not minc­ing his words, ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion with the trans­for­ma­tion tak­ing place within the multi­bil­lion-rand con­struc­tion in­dus­try. He said listed com­pa­nies were mainly trans­formed and it was only at CEO level where black faces were rare. Among the ma­jor lo­cal listed con­struc­tion com­pa­nies, only Group Five has a black CEO in Themba Mo­sai. “You can­not say these are white-owned com­pa­nies,” added Mfebe. “There are many in­vestors, some of them in­sti­tu­tional. Yes, the management and con­trol may be white – that is where you have to change.” He said the or­gan­i­sa­tion he leads, which has 406 mem­bers, was trans­formed. He wasted no time in mak­ing changes to the com­pany’s con­sti­tu­tion when he took of­fice in 2013. The re­quired trans­for­ma­tion in­cluded gen­der eq­uity.

“I was charged with turn­ing around this or­gan­i­sa­tion when I was ap­pointed in 2013. We have to be cir­cum­spect and not play the colour card. Let us rather play the card of ex­cel­lence in the form of the abil­ity to ex­e­cute the pro­gramme,” he said, ad­ding that he saw a brighter fu­ture ahead, es­pe­cially for in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als.

Mfebe said the R1.5 bil­lion de­vel­op­ment fund – set up as a con­tri­bu­tion by the con­struc­tion com­pa­nies which had been im­pli­cated in col­lud­ing to se­cure con­tracts for the 2010 Fifa World Cup Sta­dium Projects, in ad­di­tion to penal­ties im­posed on them – was enough to set the in­dus­try on a fast-paced trans­for­ma­tion drive. A sig­nif­i­cant part of the money had been set aside to em­power black con­trac­tors.

“Col­lu­sion amounts to about 1% of the to­tal projects that hap­pened at the time, so it was not a wide­spread prob­lem. How­ever, it was a pro­hib­ited, il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity,” Msebe said, point­ing out that cover-pric­ing was an il­licit prac­tice that seemed to have been over­looked.

Cover-pric­ing is when com­pa­nies col­lude on pric­ing to pre­de­ter­mine which of them gets the con­tract by over­pric­ing their bids – in so do­ing, forc­ing the client to go for the low­est bid­der of the group of bid­ders.

PHOTO: REUTERS

PRE­CIOUS TIME Jackie Kennedy’s Cartier Tank watch sold on Wed­nes­day at Christie’s Rare Watches and American Icons Auc­tion in New York. It fetched $379 500 (R4.9 mil­lion), more than tripling the es­ti­mate of $120 000. The 18-carat gold, square watch, man­u­fac­tured in 1962, was given to the for­mer US first lady by her brother-in-law, Prince Stanis­law ‘Stas’ Radzi­will, in 1963. She was known to have worn it for decades and it can be seen on her wrist in many pho­tos, Christie’s said. The case­back is en­graved ‘Stas to Jackie 23 Feb. 63 2:05 AM to 9:35 PM’, re­fer­ring to the start and stop times of the 50-Mile Hike in Palm Beach in 1963, com­pleted by Radzi­will. – Forbes.com

PAS­SION­ATE Web­ster Mfebe

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