Blog Post 1



Let me thank you all for including me in this space of your important conversations as a Senior Leadership Team.  Particular thanks to Neal Froneman and your courage to lead.  Rica Viljoen and Dawie Mostert thank you for your invitation and guidance.

We live in extraordinary times with multiple planetary emergencies.  The tragedy of the disruptive coronavirus pandemic has particularly devastated individuals and societies with pre-existing conditions.  South Africa with its pre-existing conditions of structural inequalities, poverty and unemployment, has been hard hit with the loss of lives and livelihoods. 

The COVID tragedy, like all crises, also presents us with unprecedented opportunities to harvest the lessons it is teaching us, and to reimagine how to be human in the post-COVID era.  This is an opportunity to reimagine and reframe our socio-economic systems to be fit for the 21st century.

The leadership of Sibanye/Still-water has chosen the road less well travelled.  Congratulations to Neal Froneman for the courage to lead on this road less well travelled.   Your commitment to make Sibanye-Stillwater an industry leader in sustainable mining, with shared prosperity by all stakeholders, is a big hairy goal as Jim Collins would say.  The commitment to healing, inclusion and diversity is a tall order, given our legacy of woundedness as a divided society.  Success in living your mission and realizing your vision depends on remaining firm in this commitment.

I would like to explore 3 Themes with you:

1.    How do we close the Gap between Commitment and Execution in Institutional Transformation?

2.    What is the greatest enabler of Institutional Transformation? 

3.    How to sustain Momentum for Change?


1.    Closing Gap Between Commitment and Execution

The human race has all the knowledge and experience to effect the changes needed, to ensure that we live in harmony with one another, within the planetary boundaries of the earth as a living system.  We also know from indigenous knowledge that human beings are wired to be in relation to others, and to the natural ecosystem that gives us life. Human beings are a relational species. We thrive when we feel that we belong.  Interconnectedness and interdependence are the core of the law of nature that we break at our peril. This truism has only recently been recognized by modern scientists as the accumulated wisdom of indigenous people.

We have the privilege of having as our heritage the African translation of this law of nature in Ubuntu/Botho – which literally means humanness.  The question is: why have we not lived in accordance with this wisdom, derived from thousands of years of our ancestors learning from nature?  

A growing number of people worldwide who are working in systems change have come to the conclusion that we cannot affect systemic transformation by using the same mindset that created the problems we face.  In particular, linear, mechanistic, industrial mentality that fueled the industrial revolution in Europe, that continues to shape our mindsets today, is unsuitable for 21st-century challenges.  An ironic example of the rigidity of our mindsets is the labelling of 21st century innovative technological and communications developments as "the 4th Industrial Revolution!"  

To effectively transform the workings of the mining industry (Wimpie de Klerk's Mineral-industrial complex), that has shaped our history and social relationships so fundamentally, requires fundamental transformation. Fundamental transformation demands a deep examination of how to shift mindsets to embrace it.  

Our social relationships across the board reflect traditions and practices of linear, mechanistic siloed approaches. Hierarchical, racist, patriarchal, sexist, siloed, profits at all cost mentality, have resulted in the deep wounds of pain, anger and mistrust. Marikana was the outpouring of this woundedness on that fateful day - 12/08/2012.  Transforming the broken social relationships in your operational ecosystem is the challenge you have chosen to tackle. 

Your bold strategic goals are appropriate for Sibanye-Stillwater as a global player.  You have set a very high bar for yourselves through your commitment to the 2000 model of the Good Neighbour Agreement (GNA) entered into in the USA.  The GNA, unique within the mining industry, provides an innovative partnership framework for the protection of the natural environment while encouraging responsible socio-economic development. It contractually binds partners to certain commitments and holds them to a higher standard than that required by regulatory authority processes.  

What lessons can you draw from the GNA experience in the USA, that might enable you to better execute on your high ambitions of cultural institutional transformation here in South Africa? Your stretch goals of inclusive talent management, reframing your relationships with workers at all levels, building trust and collaborative relationships with surrounding communities, healing and protecting the environment from the legacy of destructive mining practices, call for nothing less than radical transformation. 

Your commitments embrace the values of radical culture change that will shake your company and lead the charge in reimagining the mining industry in our country.  You have the opportunity to adopt a holistic institutional culture change process.  This will ensure that interconnectedness and interdependencies of all factors, internal and external, inform your strategic execution plans.  

Let us take your Women in Mining target of 30% by 2030.  This requires a mindset change from both men and women; workers and managers; communities and government authorities; shareholders and all other stakeholders.  Such mindset change will be uncomfortable because it calls for radical change in attitudes at a personal, interpersonal, family, community and societal levels.  

But like every journey, the most important step is the first step.  That first step, in this case, is for you as the Senior Management Team to travel into yourselves and honestly admit to the extent to which you need to shift your own attitudes at all levels of your lives: personal, family, networks of friends and colleagues, work and wider society.  Effective change agency requires this 'inner work' to future proof yourselves.

Mindset change in any organization is facilitated by leaders acting as change agents by changing themselves first, in order to be able to model the change they would like to see.  Systems change experts tell us that the contexts we live in, are describing each other through us.  We are transmission vehicles for values of the cultures our innermost selves have embraced.  Holistic approaches to promoting values of respect for human dignity and equality – a prerequisite to gender equality – requires that you as the senior team model those values in all your social relationships.  The personal is political, as many of us learnt years ago as activists.

Language is an important vehicle for interconnectedness.  We also know that language carries culture, but we often don't accord it the stature in requires in strategic change processes.  Our society suffers from the tendency to focus on compliance when it comes to inclusion, without following through with the dedicated resources needed to execute on agreed goals.  

Our society's token of eleven official languages has become a barrier to multilingualism.  We have been plunged into effective English monolingualism.  Monolingualism in a constitutional multilingual society, makes a mockery of the excluded languages, thereby perpetuating the legacy of humiliation. The mining industry has historically used Fanagalo as an escape route from learning languages of the workers it employs.  Fanagalo is a master-servant language that adds salt to the wounds of humiliation of lower-level workers.  Greater care has to be exercised in how you leverage local languages to enhance inclusion, belonging and trust-building in the transformation journey you have chosen.

2.    What is the greatest enabler of Institutional Transformation?

The greatest enabler of sustainable institutional transformation is the establishment of a values-based environment.  Such an environment requires doing more than list desirable values.  It requires modelling of the values by those leading the process of transformation.  Modelling values-based institutional transformation calls for 'inner work' to align your own personal and professional values with the desired ones.  The importance of this 'inner work' by you as the senior management team cannot be over-emphasised, as a signal to the rest of the organisation. 

Institutions that bring in marginalised people into their environments without the 'inner work' of healing their own internalised woundedness, tend to have trouble meeting their goals.  The primacy of a supportive culture in institutional transformation, calls for taking time to prepare the ground for receptivity of new entrants into the institution.  

Particular attention should be paid to those likely to feel threatened by new entrants.  The often ignored painful experiences of women brought into the male-dominated mining industry, and the run-away fire of gender-based violence in our society is a reflection of our failure to effectively engage male woundedness, to prepare the ground for women's entrance into previously male domains. Toxic masculinity is a symptom of the woundedness of men. Women have traditionally assuaged the woundedness of men by acquiescing to remain subservient.  

The legacy of the migrant labour system created this toxic masculinity amongst men, blunting the emotional connectedness to women and children of multiple generations of men.  Toxic masculinity is the biggest obstacle to transforming our social relationships.   Multi-generational woundedness of African men, who suffered from being on the bottom of the rung in a hierarchical colour-coded patriarchal system, has bred self-loathing in many of them.  This self-loathing undermines their ability to value life – their own and that of others. 

It is imperative to work with men to help them heal so they can rediscover the joy of self-liberation from toxic masculinity.  Only then, can men embrace women as partners who make them whole as human beings.  Restoring the humanity of men is a prerequisite to creating conducive institutional cultures for women to thrive as individuals, professionals, workers, and as family members and citizens. 

It is also essential to carefully engage new entrants so they too can have the opportunity to acknowledge and heal their own woundedness. The majority of oppressed people - be they women, children or black people in a racist society - survive by conditioning themselves to acquiesce to inequality and exclusion.  Women as nurturers of children and primary socializers have a critical role to play in breaking the vicious cycle of the culture of toxic masculinity and gender-based violence.  A wise Indigenous Indian woman in the Americas, observed that the most effective way of stopping gender-based violence, is to heal the relationships between women, so they can support one another to become the healers of their families and their men. 

Holistic approaches such as those described above, are essential to building strong foundations for lasting relationships of trust within your institution, between you and the community, between you and your peers within the industry, and between the industry and institutions of the state.  Trust relationships would go a long way to closing the gap between your goals and success in executing on them.        

3.    How to sustain the Transformation Momentum?

Our 26 years of experience as a society in transformation has shown us how easily momentum could be lost, or focus shifted in ways that undermine stated shared goals.  The 'what's in it for me' syndrome, is the biggest threat to sustaining transformation.  Evolutionary biologist, Elisabet Sahtouris, in her book, EarthDance, captured what indigenous knowledge systems and our ancient ancestors have long understood, that: "The best life insurance for any species in an ecosystem is to contribute usefully to sustaining the lives of other species."

Unfortunately, the compliance culture nurtured by our government's chosen socio-economic transformation policy, Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), has unintentionally promoted the 'what's in it for me' syndrome, with devastating consequences.  A more holistic socio-economic transformation approach, built on creating an ecosystem that promotes a win-win-win by all, would minimise the risks of pitting one set of citizens against another.  BEE is also tragically perpetuating the legacy of colour-coding and the myth of 'different races' that has caused so much damage in our society.  

International studies have demonstrated that inequality is expensive for both rich and poor. Human rights violations undermine the humanity of the oppressed and oppressor.  Crime, insecurity, mistrust and conflict are higher in highly unequal societies.  Countries with more equal societies, all things being equal, have tended to fare better in the COVID pandemic, than unequal ones like us and the USA. Equally remarkable is that countries led by women (Iceland, Finland, New Zealand, Scotland), did much better by acting more swiftly to protect life and livelihoods and to promote wellbeing for all people.  We need to find win-win-win approaches to promote shared prosperity.

This understanding would promote the complementarity of men and women; black and white people; workers and managers; shareholders and stakeholders and the nurturance of an abundance mindset. Sibanye-Stillwater has the opportunity as the industry leader to show the way that promoting inclusive collaborative approaches to generating shared prosperity, is best for all. 

The mining industry by its nature is extractive, but it needs not to stay that way.  The GNA attests to the capacity of Sibanye-Stillwater to shift towards a regenerative mode of operation.  Your ambitious strategic goals suggest that you are gearing yourself to go beyond sustainability to promote regenerative approaches.  Leen Gorissen in her book, Nature's Intelligence, suggests that regenerative development is about advancing to a different level of performance, as well as to a different level of being.  It is not just about new technology, but about a new mental model, a new role for human beings that assure a future for humans on this planet.  

A regenerative mindset in Sibanye-Stillwater would see you learning from nature's intelligence. You have the opportunity to move forward by drawing on the rich heritage of African indigenous wisdom.  This would help you be locally attuned and globally aligned.  You are poised to showing us the way as a society to elevate current practices and processes to a regenerative level.  This is the opportunity for greatness. 


Sibanye-Stillwater stands on the shores of history today.  Your high ambitions are exactly what is needed to move us from our under-performance mindset as a nation to leap into the future.  It often takes the most unlikely agents to effect the change we all aspire to but fear to embrace.  Your courage to commit to this leaping into shaping a future of inclusion and shared prosperity with all stakeholders is what our society desperately needs.  

Thank You

Mamphela Ramphele

Co-Founder of ReimagineSA

Co-President of The Club of Rome


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