Billionaire Patrice Motsepe said the country cannot be experimenting with the leadership of critical institutions and that employing the best person for the job is non-negotiable.
Motsepe was speaking at the presentation of African Rainbow Mineral’s (ARM) financial results for the 2023 financial year.
The mining company experienced a sharp fall in profits partly due to logistics constraints from Transnet’s deteriorating performance.
ARM’s revenue decreased from R18.41 billion in 2022 to R16.10 billion in 2023, while profit for the year fell from R14.36 billion to R9.32 billion – an over 30% decrease compared to the prior year.
Motsepe did not hold back in his criticism of South Africa’s failing state-owned enterprises and the lack of skilled leadership at state institutions.
“The same principle applies to Eskom and any other parastatal – the principle of employing the best skills and expertise, the best person for the job, is non-negotiable. Absolutely non-negotiable,” Motsepe said.
“We can’t be experimenting. There is no time for playing around and fidgeting by saying you are such a smart, bright young person, but your experience is in question. And you put that person in a position of leadership that requires 5, 10, 15 years of experience – of practical experience.”
He said the best people to employ in any industry are those who have grown up in and understand the business. Motsepe has used this practice successfully within his business empire.
For example, he employed Johan van Zyl and Johan van der Merwe as co-CEOs of his investment holding company – African Rainbow Capital.
Van Zyl is the CEO of Ubuntu-Botho Investments and previously served as group CEO of Sanlam for 12 years. Van der Merwe was the CEO of Sanlam Investments for 11 years.
Motsepe cited himself as an example of a beneficiary of preferential employment practices in his rise to becoming CEO of a major mining company at a young age and the largest shareholder in Sanlam.
“Let me make a bad example. I’m an excellent CEO, but I don’t have experience in the mining industry.”
Motsepe’s critique of preferential employment practices echoes that of Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana.
Godongwana told News24’s On The Record Summit that the lack of skills in the government has been created, in part, by the government itself through its cadre deployment policy.
“You can’t put a weapon in the hands of somebody who is not well-trained. What has happened with cadre deployment has been to place a weapon in the hands of somebody who is not well-trained,” Godongwana said.
This is self-defeating in some cases. “When this untrained person has the weapon, he can even shoot you – the person who gave him the weapon. That has been the fundamental weakness of cadre deployment.”
The Finance Minister is specifically concerned about the potential impact of cadre deployment on the National Treasury.
Godongwana explained that all treasuries worldwide have two things in common – technical competency and fiscal conservatism.
“Those that lack these characteristics tend to go to the IMF regularly and ask for bailouts.”
“So, if you come to the Treasury with cadre deployment, you would kill the institution. Stone dead,” Godongwana said.