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From Ballot to Boardroom: The Impact of Your Vote

Prof Parmi Natesan, CEO, Institute of Directors in South Africa

by Tia

As President Cyril Ramaphosa, in accordance with constitutional provisions, declared 29 May 2024 as the date for the 2024 General National and Provincial elections, it becomes imperative to recognise the profound significance of every South African’s vote.

In the corporate world, shareholders play a pivotal role in shaping the destiny of a company. Through their investment, they have an interest in the company, which they need to protect by assuming an active role. Their power to appoint the board of directors reflects a fundamental principle: the right to choose ethical and effective leaders who will act in the best interests of the company. In the same vein, in the context of a national election, South African voters can loosely be equated to the ‘shareholders’ of their nation, with the power to vote in a ‘board of directors’ (parliament) which, ultimately, results in the appointment of a CEO (president) and his/her executive team (ministers). This analogy underscores the importance of every citizen’s vote in shaping the destiny of our country.

The Board of Directors – Parliament’s Crucial Role

Parliament, serving as the board of directors of SA Inc., holds a pivotal position in the governance of the nation. Much like a corporate board, it should craft policies, pass legislation, and oversee the performance of the CEO and executive team.

The buck stops with parliament when it comes to the performance of the country. Members of parliament, as stewards of the nation’s interests, must deliver on their commitments. By holding parliament accountable for the country’s performance, voters reinforce the idea that parliamentarians must actively work towards the betterment of the nation and that their actions directly impact the well-being of the citizens.

The CEO – The President’s Leadership Mandate

The president, analogous to the CEO of SA Inc., assumes the leadership role responsible for executing the policies and decisions set by the board (parliament). The president should also play a pivotal role in setting the tone for ethical and effective leadership throughout government.

In addition, the president is entrusted with the responsibility of holding ministers accountable for their performance. Similar to a CEO managing an executive team, the president should evaluate the effectiveness of each minister, ensuring they align with the overall vision and objectives of the nation. If a minister falls short in delivering results or deviates from ethical standards, the president should take decisive action, including the removal of that minister if necessary. This accountability mechanism is essential for maintaining standards of performance.

The Executive Team – Ministerial Roles and Responsibilities

Ministers, resembling the executive team in a company, oversee specific portfolios critical to the nation’s well-being. Whether it’s healthcare, education, or finance, ministers are tasked with formulating and implementing policies that directly impact citizens’ lives. This executive team must be composed of individuals with expertise, commitment, and a genuine dedication to serving the public interest.

In the corporate world, executives are answerable for how money is spent within their departments, ensuring efficiency and prudent financial management. Similarly, ministers must be held accountable for the allocation and utilisation of public funds within their respective domains. This fiscal accountability is essential to ensure that taxpayer money is invested wisely, yielding tangible and equitable outcomes for the citizens.

Just as boards scrutinize a company’s financial performance, parliament should assess ministers based on their ability to deliver results within budgetary constraints. Transparent reporting and accountability mechanisms in government are vital to ensuring that the executive team operates responsibly, aligning their actions with the broader goals of the nation.

Accountability – A Cornerstone of Effective Governance

In both the corporate and governmental realms, accountability is paramount. The board (parliament), the CEO (president), and the executive team (ministers) must be held accountable for their actions and performance. Shareholders, or in this case, citizens, possess the power to demand transparency, ethical conduct, and tangible results. When accountability mechanisms are robust, it ensures that leaders are responsive to the needs of the people and act in the best interests of the nation.

The Importance of Voter Engagement

Statistics from previous elections reveal a concerning trend – a significant number of eligible voters abstain from participating in the democratic process for various reasons including dissatisfaction with political options, protest of disapproval, lack of trust in the political system and apathy or indifference. Unfortunately, this lack of engagement undermines the very essence of democracy, as the power to appoint leaders lies with the citizens. By not exercising their right to vote, individuals neglect their responsibility as ‘shareholders’ of the nation, diminishing their impact on the ‘board’s’ composition and the selection of the ‘CEO’ and ‘executive team’.

Conclusion

In the corporate world, responsible shareholders understand the impact of their votes on the company’s trajectory. Similarly, every South African citizen holds the key to the nation’s future in their hands during elections. By recognising their role as shareholders, citizens can ensure the appointment of ethical and effective leaders, contributing to the growth and prosperity of “SA Inc.”

Don’t waste the power of your vote – be an active shareholder in the governance of your country and drive the positive change you wish to see.

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