Acceptance of an Honour by MUT

SpeechesAddress by Dr Reuel J. Khoza (Chairman of Nedbank Group Limited, Aka Capital  and author of several books including Let Africa Lead and Attuned Leadership) to “Nedbank Group Technology Leaders”  I  26 June 2012


Madam chancellor, Lindiwe Sisulu; Mr vice chancellor, Professor Markus Ramogale; chairman of council, Judge Jerome Ngwenya and members of council; members of staff – both academic and administrative, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen…

My wife Mumsy Khoza, my daughter Nkateko, my friends Professor Paulus and Mrs Nkosinathi Zulu feel greatly honoured to be your guests at this graduation ceremony. I am particularly grateful to be your honouree at this august occasion.


May I at the outset extend my cordial congratulations to today’s graduandi. Graduation is a culmination of a collaborative, arduous but exceptionally rewarding process. It is the pinnacle of an odyssey that comprises aspiration, inspirations and perspiration. Parents perspired and sacrificed. Administrative staff provided the necessary regulatory framework and a conducive environment. The academic staff facilitated, guided and inspired. The students toiled, interacted and assimilated knowledge. Bravo to all the stakeholders concerned!!

For the graduates this must feel like a mountain-top experience. Take note though, there are more mountains to climb. Learning is a life-long process. In today’s fast-changing world if you stop learning you regress.

Knowledge of content is transient and ephemeral. What has a measure of permanence is your academically developed brain. Imbued with a trained brain you can develop a greater sense of efficacy, be effective and efficient in tackling the challenges of life, solving problems and making better decisions.


As for the honour conferred on me this day, I can only be profoundly grateful. Any one of my international alma maters – University of Lancaster, Warwick University or Harvard Business School could have bestowed the honour. That would have been good and important but, to be honoured by Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT), a home-grown institute of higher learning that understands me better and evidences a deeper appreciation of what little contribution I do make to my beloved country; that is more than important, it is great and bulges at the sims with significance. There can be no greater glory than that bestowed at home. My gratitude knows no limits. It gives me impetus to strive to contribute even more to the socioeconomic development of the country and to serving the national interest.


Graduates, this is one of your most significant, defining moments; you are as it were, crossing the Rubicon. You are entering what some call the real world. The world of work; in industry (private sector), government (public sector) and the professional world or that of entrepreneurship. Harsh and pregnant with challenges, the lucky ones will find appropriate employment, the less lucky will be deployed, the daring will venture into entrepreneurship and the truly unfortunate will join the swelling ranks of the unemployed. Whichever way you are going to land, be courageous, adaptable, diligent and disciplined.

Seek to evidence what Nicholas Murray Buatter considers to be the traits of the educated person:

  • Correctness and precision of speech
  • Refined and gentle manners
  • The power and habit of reflection
  • The power of growth – if you stop growing, you start atrophying.
  • The possession of efficiency (sense of efficacy) – the power to do.


You will be entering the world of work as young citizens. The delightful world of citizenship brings with it serious responsibilities. Dr Grayson Kirk (Erstwhile?), President of Columbia University articulates the responsibilities of the learned person as follows:

  • The first responsibility is to endeavour to achieve clarity and precision in one’s spoken and written communication.
  • The second is to develop a sense of values and courage with which to defend them; ‘’good’’ taste which can be used as a yardstick in making moral, social and aesthetic judgements.
  • The third is to make every effort honestly and objectively not only to understand the nature and problems of one’s society, but to comprehend compassionately the differences that separate it from others.
  • And the fourth is the responsibility to look squarely at the world and its problems with courage and hope and not with fear and rejection.

These are no doubt serious responsibilities. We would be well-advised to use them as compass as we grapple with a political economy at the crossroads.

The founding fathers of our democracy bequeathed to us a good nation. Ours was to take it from good to great. Reality is that we have taken it from good to questionable and, if we, as the African intelligentsia of this country do not intervene, we run the risk of it deteriorating to downright bad.

Inherent in that risk is a leadership that derides excellence and extolls mediocrity. Cabinet ministers who pursue excellence ad adhere to ethical principles in discharging their responsibilities are castigated and cast aside. Those characterised but mediocrity, limited comprehension of the running of matters of state in a fast globalising environment are elevated, feted and protected. The African intelligentsia is dubbed “clever” and derided as irrelevant to national leadership and socio-economic development.

As the ratings agencies drop our economy to junk status thereby rendering difficult and expensive for it to borrow from the international money markets and occasioning high interest rates as well as discouraging foreign direct investment, weakening our currency and more; we have ministers opining that the currency can be dropped at whim and picked up at will.

As part of the African intelligentsia you will also be expected to confront and deal with the decadence that manifests in collusion for exploitation by major corporations, subtle but evidential discrimination as reported in the latest Employment Equity Report, where 68.5% of senior management is still white in a country that is 90% black, 23 years sequent to the advent of democracy. Side by side with that you will have to contend with a political leadership whose moral authority leaves much to be desired.

As you join the ranks of South Africa’s enlightened few, you will be required to help develop, craft and articulate a compelling national vision with a pragmatic action plan designed to take South Africa forward. The current National Development Plan (NDP) is gathering dust because it lacks explicit timelines and deadlines. The plan also lacks a unifying vision champion.

So, as an integral part of the millennials you will live in interesting times, in the classical Chinese sense of danger and opportunity co-existing. The seismic shifts since the advent of democracy have created gaping pitfalls for the systematically underprepared and great opportunities for the bold, determined and prepared.


May I conclude by sighting John Ruskin who opines:
“The entire object of true education is to make people not merely do the right thing, but enjoy the right things; not merely industrious, but to love industry; not merely learned, but to love knowledge. Not merely pure, but to love purity; not merely just but to hunger and thirst after justice.’’

May this day, like all other graduation days, symbolically mark the demise of ignorance for us as a people. May this day hail the rebirth and advent of an unquenchable quest for knowledge. Our challenge as a people graduating for an African renaissance, as we gird our lions for an African awakening, is to commit and dedicate ourselves to continuous learning to constantly renewing ourselves from as individuals and positively reinventing ourselves as a nation.