Activists cautiously welcome Standard Bank CEO move

As things stand it would seem we have been caught offside in characterising as controversial, Standard Bank’s move to appoint the duo of Sim Tshabalala and Ben Kruger as co-CEOs of the largest banking group in the country and throughout the African continent.

In our report we asserted that the move raises eyebrows because dualisation of the CEO post is not a common feature across the world and within the South African context it will be interpreted in certain quarters as paying lip service to affirmative action.

We said all that in view of the established tendency within the mainstream commercial sector to subject black talent to a perpetual understudy process. We cited the Barloworld case where Dumisa Ntsebenza was appointed chairperson of the board in 2008 together with a deputy chair in form of Trevor Munday. This drew fire from the then CEO of the public investment cooperation Brian Molefe who characterized the appointment of Munday as deputy as patronizing gesture which suggest that the Ntsebenza needed to be baby seated. The situation was corrected.

We are not about to retract that view. But it is only fair for us to reflect the direction of the mainstream wind which seems to be blowing against our view. It would seem that the mainstream BEE activists are not in agreement with our call even though some issued ambiguous statements.

The Black Business Executive Circle (BBEC) issued a statement saying it welcomes the appointment of Sim Tshabalala as joint Group CEO of the Standard Bank Group.

“As South Africa is moving closer towards celebrating 20 years of democracy, BBEC has a firm view that all the key fundamentals of a growing economy including transformation should be equally congruent with the progress made thus far”.

The BBEC added it believes that the Standard Bank move was a step in the right direction, demonstrating that business is not paying lip service to economic transformation.
“Mr Tshabala’s appointment will surely go a long way to restore confidence in big business by ordinary citizens and the civil society as the debate on issues including lack of progress in the employment equity and economic transformation front continues to rage on,” said the Chairman of the Black Business Executive Circle, Hlengani Mathebula, as quoted from the statement.

“Though we know that it is purely coincidental that Mr Tshabalala’s appointment comes at a time when parliament is discussing the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Amendment Bill today, we believe that his promotion could not have come at a better time”.

The Black Business Council (BBC) general secretary Sandile Zungu was quoted in the City Press saying the move appears to be a temporary measure which should eventually see Tshabalala take over. He was further quoted suggesting the apparently “bizarre” move can be forgiven if it was designed to benefit transformation in the short term. The Black Management Forum (BMF) CEO Nicholas Maweni seemed to agree with Zungu. Maweni was quoted saying the BMF sees the Standard Bank move as a step in the right direction.

Clearly they know something we don’t. We hope their information and the attendant conviction stands the test of time. We also hope that this conviction is not influenced by cabalistic tendencies which are being furthered at the expense of a broader principle.

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