(Port Elizabeth) – The abhorrent legacy of the Gupta family, the role they played in state capture and the dearth of courageous and ethical leadership gives little hope and encouragement for the future.
“It is virtually impossible to suppress the nagging apprehension about the ability of national leadership to find suitable remedies for the ills that plague South Africa,” Dr Randall Jonas, director of the newly rebranded Nelson Mandela University Business School, said.
“It is also clear that, given the state of inertia, the ramifications on the citizens of South Africa are either ignored or underestimated. This is why it is critical now, more than ever, that business schools rethink the role they play in developing ethical leadership.”
Jonas said he believed the risk to social order “is recklessly underplayed and ridiculed”. He was speaking in the wake of the university name change, which has seen it transition from a geographically located brand, the former Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, to one that identifies more closely with the name – and associated values of ethical governance – of the country’s first democratically elected president.
“We need to develop leadership capabilities and a moral framework that will put us on a different path,” Jonas said. “Our country is not short of tremendous talent and moral fibre. We have it within us to determine our own fate as a nation.
“As a research-based higher education entity, we need to influence business leadership, business behaviour and the role of business in society through the kind of value systems we are trying to achieve.”
He has called for what he termed a “humanising economy” and a “new capitalism” which served the needs of the people.
“For a business, or government for that matter, to be sustainable in the long run, human investment is critical. The economy must serve the many, not the few, because these people are not just your workers, they are also your customers.”
Jonas said that business school students tended to occupy senior management and executive roles and were therefore able to influence key decisions taken within their organisation and the broader society.
“You can either respond to change or lead the change. By inculcating a business school’s curriculum with these kinds of values, it could go a long way towards influencing business behaviour in general.”
Jonas said the recent rebranding had given the business school an opportunity to revisit its modes of research, engagement, learning and teaching, and to restate its own value proposition in the field of business education.
“This rebranding reminds us to ensure that we remain relevant to the needs of both business and society. It’s more than just trading on the global capital of the name – it’s living the values that Mandela embodied, such as courage, vision and integrity.”
He said this set a high standard for academic staff and students of the 10-year-old institution.
“With the adoption of those values, we are charged as graduates, as employees, as alumni and ambassadors to change the world for the better.”
The business school’s Leadership Academy director, Leon Mouton, said this also required the business school to be on the cutting edge of knowledge production and research, particularly in terms of pressing issues such as Industry 4.0.
“Offering an affordable, world-class education that is practically responsive to the needs of industry and society is the magic formula. The business school that achieves that will lead the way in the competitive higher education landscape.”
In May, Nelson Mandela University Business School achieved international AMBA accreditation for its flagship MBA programme, which is currently among the top 200 programmes worldwide.
According to Graduate School director Professor Cecil Arnolds, who is responsible for rolling out the MBA programme, the accreditation and the rebranding of the university have coincided perfectly.
“The iconic international status of the Mandela name has already generated, and will increasingly generate, interest from international scholars to collaborate with us in terms of research, teaching and engagement. These increased international interactions will enhance our efforts to globalise our MBA programme,” said Arnolds.