Good governance must take root in SA’s discourse


Public leadership should adhere to core values

Good governance can only be realised if we have a system or fabric of ethic and cohesion that the entire citizenry buys into,” said Stavros Nicolaou, Brand South Africa’s board trustee. Nicolaou was reflecting on the state of governance and ethics in South Africa and the impact on the national brand.

Good governance and ethics are the hallmarks of any well-functioning democracy and must take root in South Africa’s discourse.

The constitution alludes to human dignity, integrity and transparency as core values of our society. Adherence to these values should foremostly be portrayed by those in public leadership.

South Africa is facing a leadership crisis both in the public and private sectors. The state capture projectand the looting of public funds meant to alleviate the plight faced by the poor during the COVID-19 pandemic have left South Africans of good conscience bewildered.

National brand

As we have witnessed in the past few years, the private sector is facing its own governance and ethics dilemma, and there is no shortage of examples.

The meltdown of Steinhoff, the collapse of VBS Mutual Bank and the corporate
governance failures found at Tongaat-Hulett have damaged SA’s reputation as an investment destination.

One of the most effective ways of promoting your own national brand,
identity and reputation is through an active, patriotic citizenry that has trust in the country’s governance, ethics and rule of law

Stavros Nicolaou


Nicolaou said investors will not invest where they are uncertain. He said the rule of law, policy certainty, proper governance and ethics are all critical elements to shaping a reliable and dependable brand that investors seek.

“To this end, one of Brand South Africa’s priority mandates is that of assisting to enhance social cohesion and a spirit of patriotism through the promotion of effective governance, transparency, trust and accountability.

“Social cohesion or what President Cyril Ramaphosa often refers to as a social contract is the most effective way of establishing a sense of patriotism,” he said, adding that one of the effective ways of promoting  national brand, identity and reputation, is through an active, patriotic citizenry that has trust in the country’s governance, ethics and rule of law.

The results of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) 2018 contained cause for concern for the South African nation brand. And the implication is that urgent interventions are needed to turn the negative trends around, based on a robust existing governance regime in the context of a constitutional democracy.

Governance report

The results of the IIAG show that South Africa has fallen from sixth to seventh position. The index is an annual measure of governance efficiency of African countries. The report covers 54 countries and bases its analysis on 100 indicators that are drawn from 36 independent sources, which together fall into four broad thematic categories: safety & rule of law; participation & human rights; sustainable economic opportunity; and human development.

In the African and emerging market contexts, governance plays a critical role in shaping the reputation of nations. It is for this reason that the IIAG provides critical insights regarding the profile of the South African brand.

There’s no shortage of guidance regarding governance in South Africa. Indeed it was our very own Mervyn King who led the way in shaping governance for boards and organisations for the past two decades. To this end, boards of directors in corporate South Africa are enjoined by King IV to ensure ethics and governance.

“Ethics is considering what is good and right for the self and the other, and can be
expressed in terms of the golden rule, namely: “To treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.

In the context of organisations, ethics refer to ethical values applied to decision-making, conduct and the relationship between the organisation, its stakeholders and broader society,” reads King IV.

In the connected economy of disruption, uncertainty and volatility, corporate governance and ethics have become an integral component for doing business and competing in the global market.

Corruption by individuals in both public and private entities is unacceptable as it goes against the values and ethics of governance. It also impacts the country’s reputation and economic prospects adversely. Therefore, individual personal agendas should not go unpunished in this environment. If we are to preserve the sustainability and the role of boards generally, we must take decisive action against those who are found to be driving graft. There must be consequences.

Ultimately, South Africans are the ones who lose out. Corruption also erodes the trust in the public sector.

North West University Business School economist professor Raymond Parsons said: “Apart from its ethical implications, it is now clear that a major factor in creating a stable policy environment is that corruption should not be perceived to be distorting policy decision-making in a manner that discourage
legitimate business interests.”

James Joseph, the former US ambassador to South Africa, said: “Business must harness the power of ethics, which is assuming a new level of importance and power.”

He said that in the 1990s but the power of his message is still relevant today.

Business must
harness the power
of ethics, which is
assuming a new
level of importance and power

James Joseph, former US ambassador to South Africa






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