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Where is South Africa heading?

May 2016


JANNIE DE VILLIERS, uitvoerende hoofbestuurder/CEO

all over society the question of where South Africa is heading is discussed intensively. What is going to happen next and what are we going to do should this or that scenario occur? People are at the same time uncertain and upset. Nobody doubts the fact that we are at a cross roads anymore.

Prof Mohammad Karaan pointed out the other day, that a serious drought has always led to a new dispensation. Take, for instance, the 1930s, 1946 and now again 2015/2016. What will such a new dispensation bring about?

I would like to elucidate our current situation by referring to two methods of rowing a boat. There is the old regime of rowers, who in calm waters sit with their backs to the goal post only watching the leader with regard to direction, rhythm and encouragement. The rowers of the boat only row; they do not steer; they do not really know how far they still have to go, because that is the leader’s job.

In the new dispensation, which I believe we are now entering, the rower sits in his own small boat looking forward. He decides for himself how fast and in which direction to row and how to approach the rapids. The water seldom is calm. Each rower determines his own outcome. Nowadays we have difficulty following our leaders and do not trust their leadership.

Part of the mistrust we have in our leaders with regard to the direction for the future lies in the criterion we use to determine whether it is going well or bad. Some of us are satisfied with nothing else but the World Cup. Everything less than that leaves us with a feeling of failure. Others, on the other hand, are quite satisfied with the Best Team Spirit Trophy and the fact that they have at least participated and that everyone had a chance to spend time on the field.

The questions recently asked of the Minister of Finance by the Credit Rating Agencies were, however, the right questions:

  • What is South Africa going to do to once again grow economically?
  • What is the Government’s plan with all the State Entities that only lose money?
  • Are South Africans still investing in South Africa?
  • What are Government’s plans with regard to the student uprisings?

This is what the decision makers of the world want to know. This is what determines our economic status – not who owns which shares and which piece of land.

Mr Jim Collins says: ‘Face the brutal facts.’ That is what makes good countries excellent countries. South Africa, with its current culture, has learned not to face the facts. We are measuring the wrong things to establish whether we are still moving in the right direction and protect people in high places who lack integrity. A fish rots from the head down, does it not?

It is time to turn your boat around and to determine your own course – the current boat is heading for the rocks! There is another way. Grain SA will, despite criticism, continue to seek solutions and will show the way. The rocks are not an option.

During the past season I have seen how grain producers from the Swartland to far beyond Mareetsane fearlessly faced the brutal facts of the drought, made a decision and moved on. That is leadership! Only dead fishes float downstream.

Publication: May 2016

Section: Features