In August 2017 Business Leadership SA (BLSA) launched the Business Initiative, a social compact in which the country’s richest men (and women) pledged to fight corruption, create jobs and drive transformation in the private sector. Less than a year after this campaign was launched one of BLSA’s directors and CE of Imperial Holdings, Mark Lamberti, has been found by a court to have called a qualified black African chartered accountant an "employment equity" candidate.
Although this was prior to the BLSA social compact, it is worth noting that these comments were made by someone who has oversight of BLSA’s "corporate transformation" agenda. His comments give the nation an indication of why transformation remains an elusive goal in the private sector.
Rich white men like Lamberti see black people as mere affirmative action beneficiaries who are parachuted into "their" companies despite the fact they neither trust them nor believe they have the competence to lead multinational organisations such as Imperial. There may be many more Adila Chowans in corporate SA who will never have the courage to come out due to fear of reprisals.
If Lamberti was genuine about his apology he would quit the directorship roles he holds, including that of BLSA, Imperial Holdings, Eskom and the National Education Collaboration Trust.
Until such time BLSA is able to sanction companies that fail to transform or meet employment equity targets, the reconciliation and transformation programmes will not go anywhere. Over the last few months we have seen many corporates and prominent individuals acting against companies that were involved in state capture and public sector corruption.
The key question is, are the same individuals and companies going to act against Imperial Holdings and like-minded organisations?