In this photo (from left to right): Pravin Gordhan, former Minister of Finance and ANC MP, Liezl Groenewald, President of BEN-Africa and Frik Landman, CEO of USB-ED and Advisory Board member of BEN-Africa (Photo credit: Wil Punt - Peartree Photography)
How to guide business on the challenging path towards sustainability and further an economy based on fundamental ethical values? This is the question being highlighted at the 16th annual conference of The Business Ethics Network of Africa (BEN-Africa) in partnership with Deloitte, currently being held in Stellenbosch. The theme of the conference centres around Ethics and Energy.
BEN-Africa, which was formed in 1999 on the equator, aims to strengthen the commitment and competence of Africans to do business with moral integrity by facilitating interaction between academics and practitioners who share an interest in business ethics. We believe that through interaction, dialogue and responsible action, both theoretical knowledge and practical skills in managing ethics will be enhanced, and our continent will benefit as a result.
But, apart from our mission, we also believe that ethical heroes should be recognised. We have noted the disturbing increase in unethical behaviour that has come to light over the past years, in South Africa and across the continent, and we are worried about what we see. It is therefore particularly important to identify the individuals who are fighting these negative trends and to hold them up as examples to inspire others. Over the past three years, BEN-Africa, with the sponsorship of USB-ED, has awarded a prominent individual for going to extraordinary lengths to promote organisational ethics in Africa. The award, the Order of the Baobab, is named after the baobab, a quintessential African symbol of wisdom, community and peace. Previous recipients of the award include Professor Willie Esterhuyse, Advocate Thuli Madonsela and Professor Mervyn King.
This year the Order of the Baobab was awarded to Mr Pravin Gordhan who is a true ethical leader, striving to do the right thing even when others choose a less ethical path. Mr Gordhan actively fought in the struggle against apartheid; today he fights the struggle against unethical leadership and unethical business conduct. He has done so at great cost to himself and, one would venture to say, also to his loved ones. He has inspired civil society to emulate his resilience, and his continued striving for justice.
It is time to celebrate excellence and to counter the increasingly toxic narrative of corruption in South Africa. We must remember what kind of public officials our Constitution promises us – public officials like Pravin Gordhan – who never give up the fight for our country's integrity.
Listen to the interview with RSG's Heinrich Wyngaard, where he asks former finance minister Pravin Gordhan: "Why ethical leadership is important?" in anticipation of him being awarded the BEN-Africa Order of the Baobab Award.
Liezl Groenewald is the President of the Business Ethics Network of Africa (BEN-Africa) and Manager Organisational Ethics Development at The Ethics Institute (TEI) . She is a seasoned facilitator and speaker at local and international conferences, regularly provides expert opinions in the media (radio, TV, printed media), co-authored the Ethics and Compliance Handbook and advises corporates on their ethics management programmes. Liezl is responsible for researching the state of ethics in the private sector of South Africa since 2009. She is currently working on her PhD in Applied Ethics (Stellenbosch University).