Unethical leaders

Ethical leadership leaves no space for graft, says Mogoeng

Business Day Live by Natasha Marrian

12 April 2016

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng delivers the Constitutional Court verdict on President Jacob Zuma's conduct regarding his private residence, in Johannesburg on Thursday. Picture: AFP

UNETHICAL leaders bred unethical followers, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said on Monday.

The chief justice, who penned the landmark Constitutional Court judgment on Nkandla, dived on Monday into the urgency for ethical leadership in SA, homing in on two issues that have plagued the country: racism and corruption.

He received a standing ovation at the Serious Social Investing conference in Johannesburg on Monday before uttering a word, and the response to his 30-minute speech was rapturous.

Ethical leadership left no room for corruption and no room for the manipulation of politicians by the corporate world, he said.

"Allowing funding of political campaigns to influence how you govern your people, allowing funding of political campaigns by the business community dictating whether you are going to shirk key responsibilities or give practical application to the constitutional aspirations of your people is the corruption that comes into being and is facilitated by the absence of ethical leadership," he said.

Justice Mogoeng cited the US as an example of how lawmaking was dictated to by big business. "State capture" has increasing come into focus in the country this year through reports about the influence of the politically connected Gupta family.

Ethical leadership was not an option but a national imperative, he said. "When you are a leader, you have the authority to influence those you lead and it is what you do that largely determines what those who follow you are likely to do.

"When a leader is unethical in his or her approach, check what those close to him or her do. When a leader does not shy away from taking what does not belong to him or her, that leader lacks ethics, and watch what those answerable to him or her are going to do."

Those who followed an unethical leader would have the "boldness" to behave unethically too because their leader could not raise a finger, resulting in leaders and followers becoming co-participants in the "unashamed betrayal of the constitutional aspirations of the people they claim to represent and the people they claim to cherish".

The private sector was also complicit in corruption, as it was business that generally oiled the hands of public officials, he said.

Private sector corruption was quickly forgotten by the media and the public. SA had to start being even-handed in the manner in which it dealt with problems. He urged citizens to "do more and blame less" and to embrace ethical leadership in their own lives.

SA was the consequence of decades of leadership bereft of ethics and it needed ethical leaders to undo the injustices of the past and to tackle the divisions that continued to plague the country.

A huge problem that continued was racism. "You cannot be an advocate of democracy, committed to the Constitution and still practice racism," he said.

"If ever there was a time to embrace ethical leadership and stop spinning, stop manipulating, stop relying on our supporters and sympathisers to do wrong knowing that this will be covered up in some way, that time is now."