Inspired Leaders

I am on a mission tonight, to turn you from inspired leaders into inspiring leaders!

5 years ago when we started developing Brand South Africa there were no templates for us to learn from – nation branding has only begun to come into its own now as the global market place has become so intensely competitive. So, we at Brand SA with a mandate from the President to change the perceptions of SA  – to attract tourism, trade and investment, forged our own way. Using the process of the Unilever brand key, a gift from Niall Fitzgerald to president Mbeki, we started our fascinating journey. The process took 18 months and incorporated the views of 25 000 people. The defined essence of the brand I am sure you are all familiar with – South Africa – Alive With Possibility

Exactly 5 years ago the world became a different place when terrorists flew aeroplanes into the World Trade Centre. This action re-defined the world as we knew it. It challenged our parochial view that everything European or American was naturally best practice. It challenged our view that the way they went about life, was the way that we should. It forced us to contemplate what we as a nation do differently, because we were beginning to feel a new confidence that indeed we did do things differently – we took best practice and Africanised it – added an energy, vigour and compassion unseen in the world.

President Mbeki two years ago, asked the IMC to define what the Magic is that people refer to when talking about South Africa – what makes us different, why do we change lives? Why is our experience for a tourist unmatched in the world – we came to the conclusion after many months of mulling it, that indeed it was the attitude of the people and the transformations that they go through.

We do things differently, and so in our brand key is entrenched the following sentence –  South Africa, a country at the southern tip of Africa inspires the world to a new way of doing things because its unique combinations create refreshing possibilities .

In a strategy session yesterday with my Manco team we were starting to formulate our direction for the four crucial years ahead as we move towards 2010.

The questions we asked ourselves were

What is inspiring?

How do we create a vision that inspires?

How can we mobilize that vision so that it takes on a life of its own, so that it can be delivered by independent people with limited guidance from us?

How can we inspire South Africans to take up the cause of marketing ourselves to the world in the unique opportunity presented by the world cup?

How can we transform our nation?

How can we provide a framework that is so simple and yet so effective that it builds its own momentum?

Who are our competitors?

Are they inspiring?

If I asked you that question I am pretty sure that I would get the response that China and India are our current competitors. Sure. But are they inspiring?…I don’t think so – yes they are doing things differently, but are they a competitive threat just because of the sheer numbers involved? – do they inspire the world to a better way of doing things? – can you imagine a TRC in China or an election in either of those countries, where the  queues would epitomize a profound transformation?

We came to the conclusion that it is not about the intellectual response to these questions – it is about the emotion that stirs in peoples hearts when they are inspired to make the world a better place. It is about our people, their soul, their energy, their forgiveness, their tenacity, their strength, their determination, their ubuntu. – All values entrenched in the DNA of brand SA. And about transformations that take place here that are unlike no others.

Our inspiration is quite simply, our people….one of the benefits of working at the IMC is that we can look at the world through rose tinted glasses – no one comes to see us unless they are patriotic and want to do something wonderful for the country – we are surrounded by great stories delivered by amazing individuals whose spirit moves me on a daily basis.

The cynics among you are going to immediately retort – she’s mad…doesn’t she know that crime is rampant and that HIV is destroying the reputation of our leadership around the world? – well of course  I acknowledge those issues. If we didn’t the brand would have no credibility – but they are only a part of the story, and so we build context, balance and write about a more holistic view of this amazing country South Africa.

Our other problem at the Council is that we cannot bash people over the heads ordering them to be patriots. We don’t own the brand – we cannot issue instructions about how the brand can be delivered – all we can do is hope to inspire. And, so to the heroes in our narrative…tonight I am going to tell you the story of one or two of our heroes that have inspired me, the International Marketing Council team and who I hope will inspire you to become an ardent participant in Team SA as we celebrate inspiring people, seminal moments and the abundant possibilities.

I am, going to read an extract from a profoundly moving story written by John Carlin    …..(outside for you on the way out)

”Before setting off to the United States last month to cover the presidential elections I received an e-mail so bewildering it felt like a message from the dead. The e-mail contained a list of 15 people from ten countries who were going to the US as international election observers. One of those people was from South Africa and his name – the two words leapt at me from the screen, seized me by the throat — was Justice Bekebeke.
The last time I had seen Justice Bekebeke was 15 years earlier on the morning a white judge in red robes condemned him to death. It was the most monstrous injustice I came across during the six years I was to spend as a journalist in South Africa.
The place: Upington, a rigidly conservative town in the desert 750 kilometres west of Johannesburg. The crime: murder. The facts:a group of people from the black township of Paballelo, a dusty little enclave on the fringes of white Upington, had chased, caught and killed a black policeman who had opened fire on a crowd of protestors, wounding a child.. Three years later Judge J.J. Basson, white-haired local grandee of the ruling Afrikaner tribe, found 25 people guilty of the policeman’s death. Basson based his convictions on what was known then as “the law of common purpose”, whereby if you share the desire to murder you are as guilty as the person who actually committed the act. When I arrived on the scene early in 1989, a year before Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, argument was under way in court over whether the death sentence should be automatically applied to all.
On the morning final judgement was passed, before the doors of the courtroom opened, I talked to the two lawyers heading up the defence of the Upington 25, as they had come to be known. One was Andrea Durbach, who was driven and passionate and came from Cape Town; the other was Anton Lubowski, a tall, dashing Afrikaner with the looks of a Polish count. The accused cherished Durbach and adored Lubowski. They saw him as their “hero, their rock star”. The lawyers told me they knew that not all 25 were going to get the rope, but that some definitely would. The one for whom they held out least hope – in fact, no hope at all — was Justice Bekebeke, at 28 years old the most articulate and most militant member of the group.
The courtroom was brutally hot. The wide open windows admitted no breeze. Yet J.J. Basson did not raise a sweat. He was going to pass death sentences today but it was with an absent voice — like a bureaucrat who, bored at the end of a long day, is impatient to head home – that he invited each of the accused to make a brief address to the court, as the law allowed. The words Justice Bekebeke uttered that day have remained with me ever since.
“In a country like South Africa I wonder how justice can really be applied,” Bekebeke began. “I  certainly haven’t found it. But, my lord, I would like to ask, Let’s forget our racial hatred.  Let us see justice for all humanity. We are striving for each and every racial group to live in harmony. But is it possible, in the name of the Lord? Is it possible in such a country?…I would like the Lord to give you many years so that one day you can see me, a black man, walking on the streets of a free South Africa. And my lord, may the Lord bless you my lord.”
Bekebeke got death by hanging. So did 13 others, including a married couple in their sixties who had ten children and had no history of political activism, as far as anyone knew, let alone common crime.
To cut a long story short, Justice was released by Mandela after two and a half years in prison. In the interim  Anton Lubowski had been assassinated; Justice and his friends were destroyed, devastated — inconsolable.  He had wanted to become a doctor. “That day I changed my plan. From that day on I knew there was only one thing I wanted to be: a lawyer. I would pick up his spear. I would follow in his footsteps. I would fill the vacuum he had left. I would become another Anton.”
I made a vow, and I fulfilled it.”
Not in his most demented dreams would he have imagined then that within ten years he would be the man in charge of running elections – non-racial, fully democratic elections – in the giant province of the Northern Cape.
Justice now lives in the provincial capital of Kimberley in a previously “whites-only residential area  and is an observer at the American elections ,  invited to the world’s mightiest democracy to make sure the elections they held were free and fair. “And the other joke is that I am the Provincial Electoral Officer for the Northern Cape but if I were an American here in Florida I would not be able to vote, because convicted felons are forbidden from doing so.”

So, our communication content leading up to 2010 will be to tell the stories of SA Heroes, in business, in civil society in sport. We have so many of them. It is they that make us different – it is they that will deliver a world cup unlike any ever seen before. It is they that have overcome adversity to become our inspiration.

2010 is our next April 27 1994 – it is our moment to seize, but we at the International Marketing Council cannot do it alone

So…to the thought leaders in this room tonight I offer to you a partnership with the nation brand, leading up to and beyond 2010. Partner with us to mobilize all South Africans in your companies and communities. We will be establishing contractual relationships that will allow usage of the nation brand and allow you to leverage off the work we have spent the last 5 years doing, instilling a sense of national pride and a sense of common purpose. You can help us create a country Alive With Possibility . We need to mobilise the masses – everyone in South Africa should want to be a part of this campaign. We need to collectively  focus on eradicating our challenges, and communicating the successes better, taking responsibility for positive communication.

More importantly we need to create a consistent message from the country, an identifyable “look and feel”. We also need to ensure that the product lives up to the message – are we   Alive With Possibility?

Why?… Because the Olympic Games in Barcelona  helped to create a more open, tolerant,  communicative and  happier society. A spirit and culture of volunteerism was fostered. Thousands of people were empowered by the thought that they have participated in the event and made a small contribution to its success.

Negative stereotypes about the ability of the city / country to deliver on such a major event were destroyed. Indeed, society underwent a “mental renovation” – it learned to adapt to crises and to develop innovative and creative solutions to challenges.

So what will success look like?
•    A unified nation, inspired to speak with one voice, a nation that honours its heroes and goes out of its way to create more magic moments – all of us speaking success with one voice

•    A nation demonstrating how they are Alive With Possibility

•    Media reflecting the positive aspect of our achievements, celebrating our heroes and trumpeting their transformations

•    Positive anecdotes becoming the topic of conversation

•    Increased knowledge about the country

•    An understanding of WIIFM and an understanding of the role of the individual.

So, please join us on this journey – acknowledging and creating heroes and telling their stories, and building a better nation for us all to live in.

Thank you