Considering the current state of South Africa, with truck drivers resorting to violence and causing chaos on our roads, I recently brought up the issue of foreign nationals in prominent positions within South Africa’s CSI sector with the country’s top CSI leaders. I must admit that South Africans are among the most compassionate people on earth. However, when I raised the matter directly, the CSI leaders all expressed similar sentiments. Some asked, “Are you being xenophobic?” while others stated, “This is a very sensitive subject.” With such reactions, one might conclude that I am a racist, biased and xenophobic person. Let me clarify that I am not. My aim is to work in an industry that is fair, balanced, and equitable for everyone. Sweeping the issue under the rug won’t lead to real progress.
We must recognize that South Africa faces significant socioeconomic challenges. Our people are struggling with hunger, homelessness, unemployment, and a loss of hope. As development leaders, we must be willing to address all topics, no matter how sensitive, to help all parties flourish. Let me make it clear that I am not prejudiced, racist, or xenophobic. I am here to discuss the issues that many of us are afraid to confront, and I will do so. Not only will I address them, but I will also provide solutions to build a better South Africa, hopefully together.
Despite the sensitivity of the issue at hand, it is crucial that we engage in open and honest discussions about the implications and possibilities of foreign nationals holding influential positions in the country.
The recent reports of violent actions by truck drivers are not something that arose overnight. It has been an unresolved issue for years, and now we are facing the consequences. When the opportunity arose to address this matter, people were hesitant due to fear. However, turning a blind eye to these issues will only perpetuate the problem and make us complicit in maintaining the status quo.
Transparency and preparedness are crucial in effectively navigating crises, just as they are in any well-managed organization. The CSI industry’s procurement and human recruitment offices should establish a framework to address the presence of foreign nationals in leadership positions, similar to a communication strategy and crisis management plan. Initiating conversations about the impact and necessity of these appointments will allow stakeholders to collaborate on developing balanced and equitable solutions.
Instead of focusing solely on nationality, we should center the discussion on the skills, contributions, and value that foreign nationals bring to the table. Do they hold these positions because of their specialized knowledge, which is scarce among South Africans? Or are they simply recruited to cut costs? Understanding the true motivations behind such appointments will shed light on the real concept of ‘shared value’ and the impact they have on the industry. If they have occupied top positions for the last 10 to 20 years, and the state of the country is where it is now – I can tell you honestly – they are not adding value but taking resources from South Africans. I apologize for being straightforward, but I don’t need to repeat the state of the CSI – I have already written enough about it in my previous articles.
With that said, I believe taking a proactive approach is better than a reactive one. By having these difficult conversations now, the CSI sector can lay the foundation for a more inclusive and diverse future. By establishing a clear vision and framework for the involvement of foreign nationals, the industry can strike a balance between local talent and international expertise, fostering the growth and development of both. I mean, think about it – in the last 28 years – have we only had Sibongile Mkhabela and Mphumzile Mblambo Ngcuka as top leaders in development?
In any case, any discussion on this issue must consider the perspectives of all parties involved, including foreign nationals. Involving foreign nationals in the discussion process enhances our understanding of their aspirations, objectives, and contributions to the South African CSI sector. This will ultimately result in a more robust and compassionate decision-making process.
Besides recognizing the value of foreign expertise, it is essential to nurture and promote local talent. If we emphasize talent development and create pathways for South Africans to reach top leadership positions in the industry, they will be able to bring about positive change in their own communities.
Engaging in uncomfortable conversations about foreign nationals occupying high positions in the South African CSI sector is a crucial step in fostering a more inclusive and prosperous industry. By proactively confronting the issue, stakeholders can collaborate to develop equitable solutions that acknowledge the value of both local and international talent. Ultimately, fostering open dialogue and understanding will lead to a more united and resilient society where the efforts of every individual contribute to the greater welfare of South Africa.
I’m glad to share that in November, we will be extensively discussing this topic at the upcoming Women in CSI Summit. We will definitely be addressing the uncomfortable truths.