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A conversation is recounted in the book # Shantaram  in which the character, Khaderbhai, says: “There is no such thing as believing in #G...

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Friday, 31 March 2017


A week in politics is a long time. During a week in #SouthAfrican #politics more can happen than anyone can reasonably imagine. Since Monday we've had the recall of the #FinanceMinister from an investor roadshow, the death of the extraordinary struggle stalwart, #AhmedKathrada (aka #UncleKathy), a #CabinetReshuffle, including the firing of the excellent Finance Minister Gordhan and his Deputy Jona and the inevitable abused South African Rand in freefall. I think that South Africans need to permanently on permanent Post- (and Pre-) Traumatic Stress Disorder medication and therapy.

Perhaps the highlight for me in a week of lows was the response to the eulogy at Uncle Kathy's funeral given by past-President Mothlanthe when he read extracts from an open letter written a few months ago by Kathy to President Zuma suggesting that he step down. Almost as one, the huge crown of mourners stood to give a rousing applause to Kathy's words from the grave. The crowd mostly consisted of ANC members, including numerous MP's and some Cabinet Ministers. Minister Gordhan also received a standing ovation when he was acknowledged as having the same qualities of integrity, nobleness and congruence as Uncle Kathy. There were of course some notable exceptions to the standing ovation: Deputy President Ramaphosa probably knew that he would be fired if he was seen to be standing and applauding, although the safe money would say that it took immense will-power for him to remain seated. 

Which brings me to the point of this blog.  Despite massive public and private criticism of Zuma by ANC veterans, we have nonetheless seen several failed no confidence votes in Parliament. People who openly criticise him outside of Parliament cannot bring themselves to vote with the Opposition, no matter how much they despise the man. Whether they are just plain fearful or whether they think that a vote with the Opposition labels them as not loyal to the ANC is hard to tell, but one thing is clear: those who continue to support Zuma in no confidence debates, but don't actually want him to continue raping and pillaging the country are completely out of alignment with their Say, Feel and Do, that is, their personal integrity. What they say and feel about the man is completely at odds with what they do. How must it be to be in their skins when they are so out with their personal integrity? Disturbing as the thought may be, the principle is no different from taking and carrying out orders to exterminate people, no matter how personally abhorrent it might seem.

So my hope for all of those who stood and applauded at Uncle Kathy's bidding for the President to step down is that they can grow some balls and vote with their consciences at the next, looming no confidence debate. They might just discover that their greatest fear of appearing disloyal to the ANC would in fact be proven wrong. As long as Zuma remains at the helm, the ANC is going down in the next election (in my humble opinion). Voting Zuma out of power might be the one thing that can save the ANC. It might also prove to be the most loyal thing any ANC MP can do for his or her party. 

Isn't it nice when you can both do the right thing and maintain your personal integrity. It's actually the same thing. 

Sunday, 19 March 2017


If you haven't yet heard +Vusi Thembekwayo speak, do yourself a favour and find an opportunity to do so. I have just returned from the annual +Bowmans partners' conference at the beautiful +Zimbali Coastal Resort & Estate and heard him speak. Apart from being #charismatic, #funny, #smart, #entertaining, #eloquent and #highenergy, he is such good value in terms of the content and context he brings to the world as it is right now.

One of his messages comes from his 4 Laws for building a great business. That law is: "Find the Truth". The truth doesn't appear from a balance sheet or income statement: that is just a version of the truth based on history. Vusi says find THE truth, so the question for me is, where and how do you find THE truth, and not only in a business context, because THE truth is applicable to the way in which we live our daily lives as well?

I'm not sure that many businesses can find one big truth about themselves, but there is no question that there are many truths in businesses and Vusi is right: you can't progress unless you are working from the truth. 

If you are misleading yourself that you are the best, or the most innovative, or the biggest, or the smartest or any other superlative, you have to remember that even if there is some objective measure of proving that you are right, it is only good for today. There may also be pieces that are factually correct, but have a "so what" feel to them. "We sold more widgets than our nearest competitor last year" may be factually true, but what will you do with that information? That isn't THE truth. There is a deeper place in which we need to delve to get beneath that particular (or any) fact and establish, for instance, that THE truth might be that "We have a sales staff who are obsessed with their jobs and love the company", or else it might be that "We have a sales staff who are being driven mercilessly and they all hate what they do". The sales figures are a version of the truth, but if one of the possibilities is actually THE truth, it will inform very different strategies for what happens next. If you are #Enviroserv, THE only truth is that you are polluting the air and making thousands of people sick in pursuit of corporate profit. Your other truth is that you are out of integrity. Your truth is not that you are making lots of money, or doing your best, or that it's not you. Work from the truth and you'll fix the problem. 

So it is at a personal level: What is THE truth about you and your life. You can lie to yourself that everything is "fine" (which it rarely is), or you can tell THE truth about your fears, your dreams, your hopes, your you-ness and what is real in your life. 

Working off half-truths and downright lies will send you down the wrong path, especially if they are your reality and at some level you believe them to be true. 

THE truth is what equates to Life's reality, to Life just as it is. It isn't your reality, unless that is completely in alignment with Life's reality.

So, to find THE truth, consider how things actually and verifiably are, whether in your business or your personal life, tell, acknowledge and take ownership of THE truth and build off that. 

In other words, let's get real.

Sunday, 5 March 2017


I was woken the night before last at around 2.30am with the toxic stench of the #landfill 20km from our house which had come wafting into our room. This has been our reality for the past 6 weeks. For thousands of people closer to the landfill it has been their reality for the past year. For the people and staff in the immediate vicinity, they have had to live with it for 15 years. As usual, I found the fog of the stench triggering the red mist of my own rage at the fact that so many thousands of people have to endure an almost daily assault, whilst the perpetrator, does nothing but deny its responsibility.

The perpetrator is #Enviroserv, a company which has the temerity on its website to claim that it has been operating for 37 years with "total integrity" and offering "environmental peace of mind".

You need only look at the website of Upper Highway Air or the Facebook page What's that Smell, with some 9,000 members, to understand that this is not about some isolated whinging from a couple of community members, but a real and substantial problem that is causing unhappiness, pestilence and massive anger in the Upper Highway Area of KZN. A calculation using my rudimentary school maths (area of a circle = π x r^2), and assuming my house is at the outer extremity of the problem and everyone within the same radius is being chemically gassed, the area being polluted is at least a staggering 1200 square km! There are endless stories of asthma, eczema, burning eyes, upper and lower respiratory problems, rare cancers, kidney failure, joint pains, chronic fatigue and children being born with cleft palates, to name a few, which are occurring on an unprecedented scale in the area, with the higher incidences in the areas closest to the landfill. Horses in the area have unexplained bleeding noses and there is even a threat that this year's Durban July is at risk. The link is incontrovertible. There is nothing else in the area which could be the cause. The Upper Highway has its own real live Erin Brockovich calamity brewing.

And what has Enviroserv done? Deny, deny, deny, blame the Department of the Environment, blame other polluters, refuse to disclose information about what is going onto the dump (in the name of "client confidentiality") try to silence activists through the courts, vowing to fight criminal charges against them and complained about the adverse publicity losing it customers. Conveniently, the executives of Enviroserv live nowhere near the dump, so they have no physical experience of the adverse effect they are having on thousands of lives. As long as it isn't affecting them, why should they care about anything other than the profit they are making out of receiving hazardous waste, much of it suspected of being not even South African waste, but imported from around the world. Corporate greed is very expedient.

Enviroserv claims that its values include "Integrity - for its own sake and because lives and the planet are at stake" and "Quality - because lived depend on it and society deserves it". If ever there was a corporate incongruence between saying and doing, this is it, right up there with Enron and its own Code of Ethics which was so discredited years ago. Perhaps they are using the tried-and-tested Oscar strategy: if you protest your innocence enough you start believing that you actually are innocent. They are breaking fundamental tenets of good corporate governance principles by their lack of transparency, lack of stakeholder engagement, disingenuity and fundamental disrespect for the environment and everyone who is depends on clean air. 

What if Enviroserv (and other corporate delinquents) could, instead of paying homage to their bottom line, simply confess and say: "Yes, the smell comes from our dump. We are  really sorry. We goofed and we will do what it takes to restore 100% clean air, even if that means closing the landfill and taking a knock on our profits." That is what corporate responsibility is about: sucking up the consequences which come with messing up in your business, not empty platitudes on a website which are about as convincing as Trump saying he loves Jews and immigrants.

There is something about transparency, honesty and taking responsibility which gives one a sense of trust. When Pick 'n Pay had its food poisoning scare a few years ago, it came right out with it, told the public what was going on and the trust index soared. Shell did something similar when they had an oil spill in Sydney harbour some years ago: their reputation was, if not enhanced, then at least preserved. Lying, denying, fighting and not doing what it takes to fix the mess dumps reputations in the bin, especially when you're in the trash business. 

Integrity, transparency, responsibility, honesty and making good aren't just for corporates: they're for all of us. Think George Washington chopping down his father's cherry tree: whether the story is true or not, it did his eternal reputation no harm.

So, come on Enviroserv: time to 'fess up and make good. Nothing less will do.