17 Jul 2019

The 5th Habit “Seek first to understand then to be understood”

Mandela’s strength was to understand why whites feared blacks in a one-person-one vote democracy.  He studied the history of the Afrikaners to understand them.  This gave the whites emotional respect for Mandela, including admiration.  Finally, the negotiated settlement placed the protection of all South Africans, white and black, under the founding principles of the Constitution.  It was the peace we needed to build the “Promised Land”.

Acts of wisdom and magnanimity are like deposits of “emotional credit in the bank”. The previously advantaged (whites) were now inspired to put shoulder to the wheel, in rebuilding and transforming the “New South Africa”, The biggest contribution they could make was in the economy.

It is a huge benefit to the country if the previously advantaged (scorned by some as “the white monopoly capitalists”) use their strength, capital, know-how, management ability and experience together with coaching and mentoring to get behind the economy. Mandela understood this and saw previously advantaged (whites) as a potential positive force.

let us apply Steven Covey’s 5th habit to the likes of Malema. “Seek first to understand then to be understood. “’ Let us understand where they are coming from, understand the motivation the shocking generalisations about whites, this before we can expect the red berets to join the real revolution from retribution to restitution and restorative justice.

Thuli Madonsela, now Professor and Law Trust Chair of Social Justice at Stellenbosch University and founder of the Thuma Foundation and the Social Justice M-Plan.

 Madonsela raised the level of discussion in her recent article in the Sunday Express, headed “Confronting the Past”. Rather than remain defensive, white people should acknowledge their past privilege and contribute in a meaningful way to restorative justice.  She reminds us that South Africa is not alone in confronting our past; Canada, New Zealand and Australia have similar histories of dispossession of land.

Madonsela includes an account of how her own father was denied a license to trade in Johannesburg, he was even arrested. The family felt the full force of the injustices of the apartheid times.   

Cyril Ramaphosa’s dream of a “Smart City” – Mandela would applaud this, I believe.

In writing my family history, the Wrights came from South Shields on the Tyne River near Newcastle in the north of England.  The region went through a series of economic booms.  Coal was discovered in the region, this set off a period of prosperity that included ship building to transport the coal.  Some Wrights prospered from these booms. In 1896, my ancestors came to South Africa, like many other immigrants from Europe they came here to be part of economic development in this boom time country.

My family ancestry made me realise that accelerated economic growth, a boom, needs some big discovery or something dramatic. South Africa has had this when minerals were discovered, the agricultural boom, the boom in wool sales worldwide. Post democracy, we had a period of 6 years before 2009 where we had annual GDP % growth of between 3% and 5%.

Build a “smart city” could be a potential boom narrative to take the people off the streets. Converting shacks and often slums into inspiring well-designed quality facilities where people live and have joy.

The Smart City project needs proposals, models. It needs to sustain the reduction of unemployment and inequality. 60% of the people who helped to build the city would then live in the city, using the skills and training they had learnt from the project, to then become a vibrant part of the cities’ economy.

” Call on business for proposals”, Mr President.  Talk to those who developed the Cape Town Waterfront. Talk to the depressed construction industry. Talk to the financiers, talk to the International community. It must be an inclusive project free of social engineering legislation and hidden agendas. It is a human race development, irrespective of colour, race, etc. It would primarily benefit the disadvantaged.

Steven Covey’s other habits of highly effective people are:

1. Be proactive; 2. Begin with the end in sight; 3. Put first things first; 4. Win/win; 6. Synergize; 7. Sharpen the saw.

Nelson Mandela was a natural.  Most of us need the teachings of Steven Covey to understand the wisdom of these 7 habits.  We could take any of these habits, find examples in Mandela’s life.  What an example he was to us! Viva Mandela

By Neil Wright

A devotee of the practice of management for business and any organisation, with faith in the unity one human race, the human race.