How South Africa Must Avoid Zimbabwe's Mistakes

Who’s better placed to offer advice than someone who’s seen similar events, north of the border. Patrick Kuwana, a Zimbabwean living in South Africa, consulting to the rest of Africa and Asia. Kuwana says South Africa’s problem doesn’t lie in ‘What needs to be done’ or in ‘Why it needs to be done’. The challenge lies in ‘How to do it’ – which is a prerequisite to execution. A fantastic read. – Stuart Lowman

By Patrick Kuwana*

The unique diversity in South Africa could be the main ingredient that if harnessed positively will result in this nation being catapulted into the ‘darling economy’ of the emerging market world and be a nation that provides a platform for inclusive wealth creation and prosperity for its people.

The future economic prosperity of every South African lies in our collective ability to co-create an inclusive economic platform.

As a Zimbabwean I have seen and experienced first-hand what happens to an economy when you have a ‘melting pot’ of:

• simmering grassroots discontent due to 20 years of unfulfilled government promises;

• A ruling political party losing support and struggling to keep a grip on power;

• Undealt with racial polarization and a racial struggle for identity;

• Unaddressed land reform and slow economic transformation;

• Stalled economic growth;

• Pending elections

Suicidal decisions were made in this ‘melting pot’ and an economy went into free fall, generational wealth was lost and blacks and whites were left destitute – proof that ‘economic collapse’ does not favour skin colour.

South Africa is at a crossroads today with a similar ‘melting pot’ and needs to navigate through the wilderness of the socio-economic injustices of the past and the structures and systems that propagated them and rebuild the ‘new’

The big question is – can we be proactive as leaders and citizens to drive things to a different destination? A destination that will result in the existing wealth combined with the productive efforts of all South Africans being used in a way that leads to co-creating new value and prosperity for all.

South Africa’s problem does not lie in ‘What needs to be done’ or in ‘Why it needs to be done’. Our challenge lies in ‘How to do it’. We are extremely good in formulating the ‘What’ and the ‘Why’, but we are desperately found wanting in the ‘How’ – which is a prerequisite to execution.

For the last 22 years South Africa has been trying to ‘transact’ (solve problems) without first investing in building a relational foundation. Without this relational foundation in place, we will continue to have endless indabas and ‘talk shops’ that do not produce any tangible results on the ground.

We will continue to have great minds formulating great plans like the National Development Plan (NDP) that sadly remain unimplemented gathering dust on shelves. We will continue to have government and captains of industry getting together only in times of crises and disbanding engagement when the rating agencies are looking in another direction.

We will continue being reactive instead being proactive. Trying to ‘transact’ before a ‘relational foundation’ is built will just not work especially when diversity is the common denominator.

It is of paramount importance that a relational foundation is built as the first step in addressing the challenges that South Africa faces – one that uncompromisingly respects and seeks to preserve the dignity of all participants at all costs, one that honours the core identity and culture of all participants, and critically understands that each participant might come to the table with a different worldview (based on the lens through which they experienced the legacies of the past and how much emotional baggage they still carry based on how that past effected them).

This approach requires mature leadership – leadership that lays down personal agenda’s to embrace the greater agenda of seeking to bring about an environment of national trust and unity so that through that a collective implementation strategy can be executed.

It requires the skill of being able to bring the collective strength of South African’s together by casting a vision for the nation that shows an inclusive future of growth and prosperity for all people groups.

Part of the leadership maturity calls for the recognition that the growth of South Africa lies in constructing solutions that will lead into co-creating new value (multiplication of capital and resources) rather than taking value from one area and giving it to another (division of capital and resources).

In our current world of instant gratification we have fallen into the trap of thinking that we can attain social cohesion and ‘transact’ without first going through the ‘ancient’ and proven practice of building trust. Unfortunately the building of trust and unity is not something that is achieved through a few meetings or events – it’s something that takes an intentional and continuous process that might spread over months, years and even decades.

It’s a process that cannot be ignored if we are to see lasting and permanent socio economic transformation in South Africa. We can leave this sacrificial process out at our peril or we can invest in it now and reap the permanent lasting rewards of seeing future generations enjoying the political and economic freedom that every South African dreams for.

• Patrick Kuwana is founder and CEO of Crossover Transformation Group – an organization focused on offering Value Co-Creation services, with a focus on architecting solutions to build new relational based socio economic structures to accelerate business and economic growth. He is involved in leadership and entrepreneurship development in Africa and Asia.

He is also part of the Transformational Leadership team at USA based FSH Strategy Consultants. Patrick’s passion isin developing and working with leaders and organizations that are committed to unlocking the vast economic potential of Africa by building new sustainable economic systems of inclusive wealth creation that will benefit all Africans.

He has extensive experience in working in culturally and racially diverse environments both locally and internationally and possesses a unique gift in vision casting and drawing diverse people into developing a platform of trust and unity to enable greater levels of success in deal making, mergers and acquisitions, project execution and strategy execution. You can contact him atpatrick@crossovertransformation.co.za.