Telling empowering stories, South Africans want to hear

Monday, 15 November 2021 18:42

Dr Reuel Khoza laments the grinding poverty,structural unemployment & politics of patronage.

By Jacob Mawela.

Emeritus Professor Extraordinaire, Dr Reuel Khoza delivered the fourth edition of the Dr Sam Motsuenyane Annual Lecture at the University of Pretoria’s Aula auditorium in Hatfield on November 12, 2021.

A series in recognition of the contributions the Winterveld-based white-haired sage and pioneer of Black South African business had made since the late 1940s – this year’s followed on the initial one presented by Tito Mboweni at TUT in 2018. It also marked the second instance Tukkies hosted the lecture – the cementing of a partnership the educational institution has entered into with the Dr Sam Motsuenyane Rural Development Foundation. The foundation works with over 3 000 farmers nationally and mainly assists them with access to markets, capital and technical information.

Attended by who’s-who’s such as the prince of the Zulu nation, the chief of Bakgatla ba Mosetlha III, Sandile Zungu, Dr Thami Mazwai as well as business associates, family (including his 89-year old wife, Jocelyn, to whom he’s been married since 1954) and friends – the Friday morning’s programme was presided over by seasoned broadcaster, Tim Modise inside a triple-tiered space furnished with varnished teak. Joining Modise on the stage were the UP’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tawana Kupe, the featured speaker, Dr Khoza, CEO of the African Bank, Kennedy Bungane, Chairperson of the Dr Sam Motsuenyane Rural Development Foundation, Paul Ntshabele – as well as the patron, Dr Motsuenyane, himself.

A master orator, Khoza addressed an audience scattered across the auditorium for social distancing observation, on purpose, diligence and delivery – peppering his delivery with idioms, vernacular proverbs and scathing remarks regarding the state of the nation. Phrases such as, "leruo le tswa mobung," (wealth emanates from the soil) "mintiro ya vulavula," (deeds speak) "mphe mphe e ya lapisa" (begging begets hunger) were bandied about in the description of points and contexts which instantly resonated with the audience.

The current chairman of the Public Investment Corporation and someone who holds an honours degree in psychology, Khoza at Tuks, as with a previous utterance, didn’t pull any punches aimed at the South African government’s shortcomings – summoning Mahatma Ghandi’s admonition regarding things which would destroy us such as: politics without principles; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work (a symptom appertaining to political patronage which has resulted in beneficiaries amassing ill-gotten gains sans a sweat under the current dispensation); knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity and worship without sacrifice.

Applying the admonition to the South African context, Khoza lamented the grinding poverty, structural unemployment, national mis-leadership immersed in politics of patronage and a political leadership which displays wanton disregard for oaths of office. Slating the government’s lack of appreciation for mechanisms such as globalization, Khoza observed: "We are aghast to hear a minister (Nomvula Mokonyane) proclaim that the rand can drop in value at whim and be picked up at will."

Addressing how as a nation we could emerge from the current political, socio-economic maelstrom, Khoza hinted towards learning from the exemplary lives of leaders such as Dr Motsuenyane and, inter alia, attuning to challenges of the time and finding attendant solutions. In his element, he went on to quote George Eberhard: "The vital force in business life is the desire to serve." Describing Dr Motsuenyane as his commercial and business father, Khoza had earlier on in his speech taken attendees down memory lane to the 1960s when the former, along with the late Dr Richard Maponya, Roger Sishi, Rev Joe Hlongwane and others, formed the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce – at a time when the political war of liberation was being waged.

Pending a Q & A session at the conclusion of Khoza’s presentation, Dr Thami Mazwai suggested that the country’s challenge lay in the restructuring of its economy – cautioning that no measure of investment was going to offset South Africa’s level of unemployment. In response to programme director, Tim Modise’s enquiry as to why institutions such as UP associated with entities such as Motsuenyane’s foundation, Kupe qualified: "We belong to society and to society we shall deliver!" Offered the African Bank’s Bungane, "Your bank will no longer be known as a glorified mashonisa!" The bank, founded by Motsuenyane, sponsors his foundation’s activities. Also offered a moment to expound on his role in the whole venture, the young and suave Ntshabele, an agronomist and US Department of Agriculture Cochran fellow, deadpanned: "The notion that Black people cannot farm is a fallacy!" Adding that Motsuenyane once put it to him: "Paul, le palwa keng (what deters you) – because you’re in charge of the country?"

About Dr Samuel Mokgethi Motsuenyane:
Potchefstroom born 94-year old Motsuenyane is a scion of the farming community of the Bakwena ba Modimosana clan once located around Rustenburg and from whose ancestral home, it was driven around the 1820s. He garnered his education from Jan Hofmeyer School of Social Work and Carolina State University in the US.

He ascended the NAFCOC presidency in 1968 and became Chairman of African Bank Limited (an institution established with an initial amount of R70 in 1964 and whose first branch was launched in 1975). Betwixt the years 1976 – 1981, he tenured as president of Boy Scouts of South Africa.

The first South African Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Dr Samuel Motsuenyane, arrived in November 1996 and completed his tour of duty in August 2000.

Described as an extremely modest person whose passion is stirred by agriculture, as well as someone whose life exists beyond his own life – Motsuenyane, who has donned numerous hats in his lifetime, has dedicated more than 60 years of his life in pioneering and promoting entrepreneurship in townships and rural areas. His foundation is involved in agricultural projects entailing grain, vegetables and citrus production.