In Conversation with Bonang Mohale: Part 1

by: eNCA

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often times life takes us on an unexpected journey filled with endless twists and turns this is even more true for renowned businessman and philanthropist Bonin Mahalo having worked for 34 years now he is the definition of a virtuous leader he has served as president of the black business forum amongst many other roles and is currently at the helm of business leadership South Africa his book lift as you rise is a collection of his work on leadership throughout the years I sat down with him to get his reflections on leadership let's talk about some of the difficulties that you've met you chart in the book that she started working on the 17th of April in 1984 the difficulties of entering into a space especially at that time as a black executive what was that like so 34 years to be precise at that time black people who has seen never heerd at that time even when you had a PhD in human resources you could never be called a human resource manager but a personnel officer even if you had a degree in engineering you'd never be able to get the blasting certificate because our masters at that time the National Party believing so staunchly in a party they thought if you gave black people dynamite they might just get angry and use it against the master remember that time our job was to teach white young males that job that we knew for 30 years so that in three months they could become our supervisors so to get into the job market on the 17th of April 1984 we knew for sure that we had to act 10 times as hard she has to be noticed and then after being noticed we knew that would work for 30 years without any progression of substance because remember it was pervert who even wrote the book the architect of apartheid who said there's no point in teaching a black child mathematics and science because they will never rise above any form of manual labor you'll be amazed that even today some white people only interactions and interface with black people is as helped us and as godness therefore they are so used for three hundred and fifty years to giving instructions they have not learned to be able to view black people as equals let alone to get into a work environment and see a black person as your boss therefore as we teach black people to be at peace with themselves to make peace with the fact that they are now supervisors they need to ask rather than give instructions sometimes to their subordinates and indeed their colleagues they have to unlearn the old as gardeners and as help us to take their rightful space in the wider community of nations today 24 yrs into democracy it's not unusual that black people in women are still spectators of their own lived experience at that time that young people are telling us that nothing about us even if it's for us without us hashtag everything must fall has not been internalized especially by captains of industry because we still want to tell young people what to do and how to do it rather than being guided by them there what I try to do in the book is to say let's use an African adage lift as your eyes because you don't have to be the president they came or Queen the managing director before you can extend a hand and lift others as you go up because Khalil Gibran says those that are helping others are fulfilling God's work so when we say lift as your eyes this is an affirmation of the 70s black teachers mass exodus that manifested on the 16th of June 1976 when black students had to learn everything in Afrikaans during the violence of Bantu education when we coined phrases like each one teach one because we knew we couldn't just leave it to government this is what we are saying to big companies to say the best amongst us must lead with a hat of a servant because seventh leadership it's not a leader that has many sevens this is what we implore learn and internalize from the best Constitution in the world because the preamble to our own constitution in plazas to recognize and acknowledge past injustice but it mandates us to fix these in justices therefore lift as your eyes it's giving expression to say as black people with great natural endowments we now have an opinion in the context where there are three ideas that have conquered the world democracy capitalism and peace to say business human rights and the legitimacy of capitalism must cede side by side so I prefer in the book to say when we think of the role of business as number one delivering on what you say and what you promise number two we say do no harm do no harm to the employees that work for you do no harm to where you are located to the society that surrounds you like Marikana do no harm to the environment because we have not so much bharat this world from our forebears as we inherited it from our children therefore we need to live it in a state that is substantially better than we found it in therefore that's why they lived as your eyes it's a it's a rallying cry it's a call that the duration of oppression has never been determined by the oppressor always by the oppressed it's only when the process this much and no more that oppressive oppression ceases to exist you are passionate about mentorship you are passionate about other people's developmental goals reaching their peak and master some of the writing that is shared by people who you have helped on a personal basis what is the role of black executives in lifting as you rise their role is to recognize that leadership is being genuinely obsessed with the development of others management is their self not the other centered but here we are calling black executives to a higher order to say can you do things for others expecting nothing in return because it's your own moral obligation because it's manifestly in our interest to as many of us scaffolding us the higher we go it is up to us to Chronicle and to archive our own history to be the storytellers of our own lived experiences black contribution to civilization has been expanded because we are lazy to document to write so people think that African executives all that they ever been is to be hewers of wood and drawers of water not knowing that the Moors brought civilization to Europe that it is black people of hue of yours and mine that builds the Pyramid at that time that we couldn't spell engineering and we lost it for 350 years we've been oppressed subjugated excluded it's up to us to regain our own self-worth self-respect so that we can move forward in space and in time as a people with great natural endowments is the space conducive to do all of that it's up to us to create it to be conducive so when you get into an hostile environment as the workplace your job as a senior executive is how do I make this environment to be understanding to be receptive to a fresh and a new perspective how do I make it accommodating for women how do I make it accommodating for black people because our job is not to upon individual executives is to create the environment the culture that says any seed that Falls upon this soil can indeed grow and bear fruit in abundance this is the parable of the four seeds in action our job as black executives is to work on the culture the environment that is accommodating of many perspectives because the world cannot be monochrome it is an outcome of many inputs and experiences that there is strength in diversity and again it iterates what is contained in the preamble of our Constitution because you start by saying with the people united in our diversity


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Duduzile Ramela speaks to Bonang Mohale. Courtesy #DStv403
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