A Continued Conversation with Kgalema Motlanthe, Deputy President of SA

We pick up where we left off two weeks ago with a leadership conversation between Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Adriaan Groenewald of Business Report Leadership Platform:

BRLP: The Malema situation has been a big leadership challenge.  How does a leader deal with someone like him?  Is it not usually a matter of confronting it one-on-one?  What is the general leadership principle in dealing with a maverick like this?

Motlanthe: Firstly, the philosophy of the ANC is that it only abandons the most incorrigible – those are the people it washes its hands of.  It has an abiding confidence that people can be corrected and mentored – everyone has strong points and weak points.  The organization has the ability to undermine the weak points.  Malema’s glaring weak points are disrespect and an almost masochistic desire to want to shock, because then people are attentive – that’s something that could be corrected really easily.  He also has an exaggerated sense of self importance which is a weakness – over-confidence is a weakness at any given time.  So he really just needed to be helped along.  You give a young person space – to bring radical ideas, questions and opinions – but once he veers off, as I said, to undermine these weak points, where he shows disrespect, we must be able to pull him back in line, consistently.  Consistency is what was missing in his case.

BRLP: But somewhere tough action must happen when someone does not come back into line – that’s leadership.

Motlanthe: It plays a big role, yes – tough consistent action.  It doesn’t have to be in accordance with his own approach to things – it doesn’t have to be shock therapy – it can be corrective – but every step of the way; he needs feedback every step of the way.  If he blabbers off this way, there must be feedback on an ongoing basis.  But if he’s encouraged – he plays to the gallery and you are encouraged and applauded for it – and the media give you all the coverage and so on – it’s difficult to resist. 

BRLP: What are the top three barriers to a united successful South Africa? 


  1. Lack of education and skills – the weaknesses within the education system. Only an educated nation would be cultured enough to succeed.
  2. Inequality of social bulk infrastructure. We live in two countries – the one part is so advanced and sophisticated as was seen by the FIFA world cup, but there is a part of this country where teachers and learners don’t even have access to a toilet – that inequality in infrastructure is a huge barrier and it’s the source of this migration into urban areas with the sprawling informal settlements.  People would not be migrating – they would be living where they are living and making use of the arable land at their disposal and so on.
  3. Then the third one would be the size of the South African market.  Therefore if we appreciate that we are relatively small, in comparative terms our GDP is equal to the annual revenue of Shell Petroleum Company.  That’s how small we are. We should really be leading in the creation of a bigger market by investing in economic infrastructure.  A country such as Lesotho – we should not even debate what we should do to include it in the economic infrastructure.  Botswana, right up to Namibia, Mozambique – we should be thinking of how we can include them in the economic infrastructure and make this one market.  Movement of goods and people should be made simpler. 

BRLP: How important is the National Development Plan (NDP) for our country?

Motlanthe: That’s a very important plan – because it addresses the shortcomings of short-termism – it gives us a broad vision which we can then translate into measurable attainable sets of tasks and goals for each administration – as building blocks because it will identify a major weakness or malady or indicate by when a goal ought to have been achieved.

BRLP: Our challenge does not seem to be coming up with great documents like the NDP or good policies – it’s about implementation.  How do we create that implementation culture – for me it’s about leadership and movement – to make it happen?

Motlanthe: South Africa is richly endowed with talent – the best way of ensuring that we implement is to tap into the most gifted talent available to the country, creating the space for them to make the contribution, so we can then implement.  You have to know what you are implementing.  We were able to meet the deadlines set by FIFA for the FIFA world cup – buildings were mega-projects but there were clear timelines and so we could co-ordinate through the local organizing committee the three spheres of government – national, provincial and local – even though competencies were different.  That’s an important lesson we must follow in all that we do – once we are clear that this is the project that we must deliver on, there must be that kind of co-ordination between national, provincial and local. 

BRLP: How should leaders conduct themselves in South Africa – almost from a values perspective?

Motlanthe: The guideline should always be to remember once you occupy a public office be it in an organization or corporate company or government there is no separation between the private you and the public you.  I can’t say I will be well-behaved in a cabinet meeting and as soon as I am outside of that meeting I am a free agent and can do what I wish.  At all times for as long as I occupy this public office in the ANC as well as in government I represent those entities – I must always be conscious of that responsibility and burden if you like – in my pronouncements and my conduct I must enhance the image and prestige of those entities that I represent.

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Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on adriaan@leadershipplatform.com for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022
Email: info@leadershipplatform.com

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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