Telkom CEO hangs up on em­pow­er­ment

Why ap­point an in­ter­na­tional ad­ver­tis­ing agency when the job can be done bet­ter by lo­cal black tal­ent, asks

CityPress - - Business -

Let me be­gin by con­grat­u­lat­ing you, sir, on Telkom having re­cently de­clared an in­crease in earn­ings and rev­enue for 2017. In these rather gloomy eco­nomic times in our coun­try, it is al­ways re­fresh­ing to learn of some busi­ness growth.

This is an­other case of black ex­cel­lence at its best and a big feather in the cap of the coun­try’s trans­for­ma­tion agenda. But, sir, I’m a bit con­flicted. I learnt re­cently that your com­pany had in­vited ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies to bid for a piece of busi­ness at your be­hest.

So, be­ing the eter­nal op­ti­mist that I am, as a young South African to­day, I waited with bated breath to hear who of the myr­iad tal­ented South African ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies would win the ac­count. Telkom is, af­ter all, a South African en­tity with 40% gov­ern­ment share­hold­ing, so, nat­u­rally, one ex­pects it to be among the fore­run­ners of the coun­try’s trans­for­ma­tion and eco­nomic agenda.

How­ever, to my dis­may and ab­so­lute con­fu­sion, I am told that the ac­count was awarded to WPP’s Wun­der­man, a multi­na­tional agency based in the US, part of Ru­bi­cam.

The two other agen­cies that got work were De­mo­graph­ica and Re­tail In­sight. How­ever, they only got a small part of the big­ger con­tract.

Now, sir, as a pro­fes­sional my­self, I can ap­pre­ci­ate the need to pick the best agency. I ad­vo­cate for ex­cel­lence my­self. Af­ter all, we have enough un­der­per­form­ing paras­tatals as it is, so re­ally, we need the best peo­ple for ev­ery job. I am also sure that your pre­ferred can­di­date passed a litany of re­quire­ments that will bring the best out­come to your flour­ish­ing busi­ness. How­ever, from where I am sit­ting, this is a spit in the face of South Africa and a gross vi­o­la­tion of our eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion am­bi­tions.

How does a com­pany that is 40% owned by the peo­ple of South Africa ex­plain its con­tin­ued stance to side­line South African sup­pli­ers for over­seas com­pa­nies? For be­fore ap­point­ing Wun­der­man, your com­pany was work­ing with an­other multi­na­tional, DDB, and is now back to WPP.

Is Telkom so averse to real trans­for­ma­tion or are our lo­cal ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies just hope­lessly pa­thetic?

You know, sir, dur­ing the times of Sizwe Nx­as­ana, Papi Mo­let­sane and most re­cently Pinky Mo­holi, Telkom worked a lot with black agen­cies. This is the time when the en­tity came up with some of its most ex­cit­ing cam­paigns, such as “Home­com­ing” and the im­mor­tal “Molo Mhlobam” to name just two. For its troubles, the com­pany be­came one of South Africa’s most loved brands, ac­cord­ing to the Sun­day Times-Marki­nor Top Brands Sur­vey.

But now, the re­turn of these multi­na­tional agen­cies, in your ten­ure, al­most feels like a re­ver­sal (es­pe­cially for the South African ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try, which re­mains one of the most un­trans­formed).

I bet the South African pub­lic res­onates less with you part­ner­ing with Usain Bolt, on your “Bolt­speed” cam­paign than they would if you had worked with the fastest in the world to­day, our very own Wayde van Niek­erk. Anaso Jo­bod­wana, an Olympic bronze medal­list, says your in­sis­tence to use Usain Bolt just sends a mes­sage that lo­cal ath­letes are not good enough. This de­spite Van Niek­erk be­ing the first ath­lete to break 10 sec­onds for the 100m, 20 sec­onds for the 200m, 31 sec­onds for the 300m and 44 sec­onds for the 400m. Van Niek­erk is now be­ing hailed as the next Bolt – in ef­fect mak­ing Bolt a yes­ter­day man, in our eyes.

So, when your ten­ure ends – for it will end, rest as­sured – yours will be the legacy of a black South African who re­versed the gains of trans­for­ma­tion.

Mnumzane, as black peo­ple, each time one of our own gets ap­pointed to a po­si­tion of power, we are filled with a sense of re­newed hope.

We some­how be­lieve that the same trans­for­ma­tion agenda that cat­a­pults you to a big po­si­tion is the same agenda that will cause you to carry more than just a busi­ness in­ter­est, but re­mind you of the trans­for­ma­tion What do feel about Telkom’s de­ci­sion, par­tic­u­larly in an en­vi­ron­ment where trans­for­ma­tion is key? Is the ANC it­self fail­ing to fur­ther the em­pow­er­ment agenda? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word TELKOM and tell us what you think. In­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50 obli­ga­tion you carry, as a black South African in 2017.

For we are up against a well-en­trenched sys­tem that was de­lib­er­ately de­signed to ex­clude the masses, as you know, and now that you are up there, Joni, please do not sell out. Do not per­pet­u­ate black ex­clu­sion.

Now, is there a case for ef­fi­ciency ver­sus trans­for­ma­tion? I hope that mat­ter does not even arise be­cause ef­fi­ciency in an un­trans­formed econ­omy equates to gross in­ef­fi­ciency.

So, sir, frankly, I am dis­ap­pointed that Telkom did not ap­point a South African agency.

Prof­its are not prof­its when they are rep­re­sent­ing a minute por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion.

I hope we can open this dis­cus­sion fur­ther.

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