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Courage is my compass

Pravin Gordhan (former Minister of Finance and recipient of the 2017 SBL Leadership in Practice Award) and Cecil Thokoane (Chair: SBL Alumni Associated Executive Committee)

On 28 September 2017, during an event celebrating leadership with courage and integrity, Pravin Gordhan, former Minister of Finance, was awarded the Unisa Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL) Leadership in Practice Award (LIP).

This award was instituted in 1989, with 24 outstanding South Africans to date being the recipients. These include entrepreneur Wendy Luhabe, former Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel, former director general of the presidency Dr Frank Chikane, and, in 2016, Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng, chief justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

The LIP is an accolade that recognises exceptional South Africans who have demonstrated impeccable leadership skills. Prominent business, political and community leaders attended the gala dinner in Sandton. The theme of the event was Courage is my compass, which was specifically designed to compliment Gordhan for the courage he is displaying as a South African leader.

“The SBL is proud to recognise Pravin Gordhan as a leader who is a shining beacon of steadfast principles, character, and courage under fire,” said Dr Renosi Mokate, Unisa SBL Executive Dean. “As a true servant of the people, Pravin Gordhan held South Africa’s name high as he competently led the financial affairs of South Africa, stabilised our currency, and won the respect of investors. As a member of parliament, he continues to lead by example through taking a stand against corruption and upholding honour.

“While this has come at great personal cost, he stands firm in the courage of his convictions providing an inspirational example of great leadership, the kind of leaders our country needs. We thank him for putting our country first and demonstrating the power of ethics in action. He is indeed a worthy recipient of the 2017 Leadership in Practice Award. For holding true to your compass—courage; for remaining steadfast to your anchor—integrity—we salute you.”

In his response, Gordhan dedicated the award to those who stood firm in the Treasury, ANC, and Parliament and confirmed that receiving an award for leadership forces people to use the opportunity to take stock of the country and current events taking place. He reiterated that, in our country, it is now more than ever important for leaders to have the courage to be able to say “I disagree” when certain decisions are put forward. Leaders must have the compass in hand and be clear on what it is that they want for this country and not for themselves and their own pockets.

He urged South Africans to make the right decision in December with regards to leadership of the governing party and South Africa, referring back to the hard work and dedication that went into the final crafting of the Constitution of the country. “Our Constitution is the compass of our country and provides us with direction, and the focus should be on growth and job creation,” he said.

In his message to the SBL specifically, he requested the school to enable students to use the learned theory and practice true leadership with the correct values. “In practising ethical leadership, we will be able to meet the expectations of South Africans and give people a better life. In our current situation leaders need to have resilience and they need to stay strong in the fight for democracy and integrity.”

Following a standing ovation from attendees, after his address, a tribute to Gordhan was presented by the former Treasury director-general, Lungisa Fuzile. He reiterated that Gordhan had been an activist leader since his student years and that he had played a pivotal role in the establishment of democracy in the country. He urged South Africans to pay attention to what Gordhan was saying and “connect the dots” regarding what was happening in South Africa. He honoured Gordhan for the courageous and ethical leadership he displayed during his tenure in various senior positions in government.

Each year SBL alumni and a panel of SBL experts select an award recipient who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and visionary qualities in multiple spheres of society. “The panel considers the nominee’s business or political achievements and particularly the value these achievements have added to society,” says Mokate.

“While these achievements are often the visible elements of leadership, intangible qualities are equally important—such as the crafting of visionary insights, capability to shift others’ paradigms, shaping of core values and the ability to influence and inspire people. We believe Pravin Gordhan is an example of the dynamic and ethical leaders the university aims to train and develop, leaders who value diversity and are dedicated to enhance human prosperity.”

*By Cilla Boucher

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