AVBOB Board Chairman & Members
AVBOB CEO & Senior Executives
All Members of the Mutual Society
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good evening, sanibonani, molweni, riperile, dumelang, lotjhani, goeienaand, ndi madekwana!
It is indeed my singular honour and a privilege to be asked to deliver a keynote address this evening on the occasion of the AVBOB Annual General Meeting.
On behalf of the Government and people of South Africa, we extend our gratitude to the AVBOB family for the role you continuously play in the upliftment of our communities. As the world-renowned economist Joseph Stiglitz eloquently summed it up: “each of the most successful globalising countries determined its own pace of change; each made sure that as it grew the benefits were shared equitably.” Put differently, if the benefits of a growing economy are not shared equitably, then inequality kicks in and social malaise takes root. This social malaise that occurs as a result has dire consequences for society as a whole. In his 2002 Budget Speech the then Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel, captured it succinctly when he said: "We must be clear that the reason we need to combat poverty is that it deprives individuals - and, by extension, societies - of their full potential, It robs children of their childhood, condemns adults to illiteracy. It wears down the human spirit and robs people of their dignity.”
Programme Director; my talk tonight is on the importance of social responsibility, responsible corporate citizenship and strategic relationships in-order to avoid the social malaise taking root in our society. All three concepts are sometimes used interchangeably but quite honestly they work well as interrelated concepts. In fact, social responsibility as a concept has morphed into corporate citizenship. While on the other hand, strategic relationship is actually a means to end to achieve sustainable and good corporate citizenship. In financial speak, responsible corporate citizenship is actually about the triple bottom line. It consists of three Ps: Profit, People and Planet. The phrase “the triple bottom line” was first coined in 1994 by John Elkington, the founder of a British consultancy called SustainAbility. Elkington argued that companies should prepare three bottom lines instead of focusing solely on its finances, thereby giving consideration to the company's social, economic and environmental impact.
To simplify this corporate speak, let me quote the founding father of the new South Africa, former President Nelson Mandela, he once said: “As long as many of our people still live in utter poverty, as long as children still live under plastic covers, as long as many of our people are still without jobs, no South African should rest and wallow in the joy of freedom.”
Indeed, tonight I want to emphasise that we cannot afford to wallow in the ecstasy of freedom as long as many of our people are victims of the "triple challenge" of unemployment, poverty and inequality. There can be no honest corporate organisation that can rest in its laurels and not contribute in some way to the upliftment of our people. It is in fact corporate thuggery not to pay attention to the three Ps: Profit, People and Planet. As you might very way know that the King I and King II, Corporate Governance Reports already made a call to corporate companies to ask themselves some hard questions such as:
- How a company has both positively and negatively affected the economic life of the community in which it operated during the year under review; and
- How the company intends to enhance those positive aspects and eradicate or ameliorate the negative aspects on the economic life of the community in which it will operate in the year ahead.
It seems to me that AVBOB understands the importance of the concept of Stakeholderism and strategic relationships in its quest to achieve the desired effect of being a good corporate citizen. Traditionally, the self-interest of any business organisation used to lie in retaining or enhancing its autonomy in the face of pressure from the external environment. Researchers have begun to question this assertion, arguing instead that it is purely a minimalist approach to enhancing organizational autonomy. The emerging view is that the corporate organisations, to succeed in an increasingly complex business environment, must not only absorb pressure from the external environment but must instead work in tandem with the external stakeholders to tackle social issues.
Hence, the prevailing view today is that for any corporate organisation to enhance its autonomy, it must build strategic relationships with external stakeholders to achieve the triple bottom line. The building of strategic relationships implies interactivity – a two-way communication. This alone, business gurus argue, has the natural consequence of building strategic relationships. This is only possible through a managed system of engagements – i.e. Stakeholder Management.
In a nutshell corporate organisations can only succeed in the long- term through building and maintaining excellent relationships with strategic stakeholders. This can only be achieved through positive matching of the needs and objectives of stakeholders with those of the corporate organisation in question. In his seminal work, Strategic Management: Stakeholder Approach, Freeman calls for a rethinking of our traditional picture of the organisation as a result of the emergence of stakeholder groups. Stakeholders are therefore defined as, “groups and/or individuals whose behaviour has consequences for the performance of the organisation, and the organisation’s behaviour or decisions have consequences for them.” This definition suggests a move away from stakeholder influence that I spoke about earlier to stakeholder participation. This is the real heart of the concept of Stakeholderism.
Programme Director; I am glad to say without any fear of contradiction that the Basic Education is a strategic stakeholder to AVBOB. There is a realisation on the part of AVBOB that the reality of the situation is that we are unable to achieve all that needs to be done alone as Government, hence the AVBOB strategic partnership with us. In short, we are in this together. The Deputy Minister of Basic Education Mr. Enver Surty once quipped that AVBOB is only corporate that will never let us down. Well, that is despite the fact that AVBOB will ultimately as its core business let us down literally.
Programme Director; the reality of the matter is that strategic partnerships between the Government and corporate organisations require agreement on common objectives hence the emphasis on Stakeholderism.
Hence, Programme Director, I want to argue that the most effective strategic partnerships are where partners not only enrich each other but also find ways in which they can mutually benefit. Our singular goal for any partnerships in the basic education sector is to create space for social partners and the corporate organisations to assist in realising the achievement of Delivery Outcome 1 i.e. “Improved Quality of Basic Education”.
Our strategic partnership with the AVBOB fits faultlessly within this framework of a mutually beneficial symbiosis. We, therefore owe a debt of gratitude to the bright sparks at AVBOB who daily work effortlessly to change the lives of our children throughout the country.
Programme Director; it will be amiss of me if I don’t acknowledge the fact that the AVBOB’s partnership and strategic relationship with us extends to many educational areas both curricula and extra-curricular. Fore-instance, AVBOB is our strategic partner in the South African School Choral Eisteddfod (SASCE), Spelling BEE, National Teaching Awards, and the Ministerial Announcement of the National Senior Certificate Results.
In addition, Programme Director, AVBOB is also the single largest contributor to our ambitious 1 000 School Libraries Campaign. In July, 2015 we launched one of the most ambitious educational initiatives since the dawn of democracy, the 1000 School Libraries Campaign. Our plan is to ensure that every year until 2019; we activate and/ or make available 1000 Libraries per annum. At the programme launch, we had wonderful support from the private sector as well as non-governmental organisations. This campaign was launched in July to coincide with the International Nelson Mandela Day activities. In this regard, AVBOB has generously donated many Converted Container Libraries with 2500 Books each, and Trolley Libraries that benefit thousands of our learners.
Perhaps the single most important contribution to date is the work done at the Thlasedi Primary School as part of the Nelson Mandela International Day. I am happy to record for posterity that the Thlasedi Primary School was refurbished, provided with dignified sanitation and library infrastructure complete with books.
We thank you kindly for this generosity and I may add, wise investment in the future of our country. As the Ministry of Basic Education, we are truly indebted to AVBOB for the brain power, innovation and financial injection behind our strategic relationship and partnership. You’re indeed the pioneers in the space of responsible corporate citizenship and building lasting strategic relationships.
In conclusion, I wish that our partnership in education continues to flourish so that in our lifetime we can realise our mission of providing State-funded quality education for all. We are very excited to be where we are, we agreed, we would work together to Move Education Forward, and we are doing so daily without any fanfare.
I thank you.