The Director's Event 2019. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Director's Event 2019. Picture: SUPPLIED

SA’s biggest board meeting, an annual event that seeks solutions to some of the country’s many challenges, took place recently in Sandton, Johannesburg. This was the fifth edition of The Director’s Event, hosted by the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies and BCX.

This year’s keynote address was delivered by chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who questioned how SA had been allowed to jettison its value system to the extent that corruption was allowed to flourish. SA’s election process, he said, was fundamentally flawed, adding that it matters who becomes the president of the country, a premier, a cabinet minister or a mayor.

Leaders should not be chosen from the ranks of those who have resources or for their connections but rather because they have the necessary skills to address the many problems facing the country, said the chief justice. “We owe it to ourselves and to prosperity to only appoint the best to positions of responsibility.”

Candidates for leadership positions should be required to meet stringent requirements before even being considered and should be subjected to much greater public scrutiny. “We need to be asking the hard questions of our potential leaders so that we get the best to lead us,” he said.

Mogoeng called for a reflection on how political parties are funded, noting that the current system encourages favours in return, and that “money speaks”.

This year’s chairman’s report was delivered by Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa, executive chair of Sigma Capital and a trustee of the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation (previously known as the Shanduka Foundation). She said education is vital for driving SA forward and that the foundation had made a number of contributions to effect real change in the sector.

Referencing the “Ninja” generation (no income, no jobs and no assets), she said neither the public nor the private sectors would be able to absorb all school leavers, which makes the creation of an entrepreneurial culture so vital.

The big take-out

Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng says SA owes it to it itself to only appoint the best to positions of responsibility.

A panel discussion considered current initiatives to address the issue of youth unemployment and the need to create a more enabling and supportive environment for aspiring entrepreneurs.

A second panel discussion focused on digital transformation and whether inclusive technology innovation had the potential to develop SA’s economy. What is clear, the panel found, is that technology is disrupting both business and society; it’s changing the nature of work and making a growing number of people redundant. However, there is no doubt that digital transformation is good for business, with digitally transformed companies overtaking their less digitally transformed counterparts.

It was noted that SA needs to think very carefully about which digital technologies it adopts and the potential social consequences of these technologies to ensure a more equitable society.

The final panel discussion of the day focused on SA’s politics and the economy, both of which are in crisis. Opinions expressed were that to achieve a high-road outcome all stakeholders need to act in the national interest and make some hard trade-offs and compromises. It was said that SA needs to become better at implementing plans and must develop better partnerships with the private sector, put the right leaders in place and better manage political contestation.