Henley Business School Africa has noted the rising levels of violence in South Africa with absolute abhorrence and great sadness. Today it recommitted itself to be a safe space for both its students and its staff.
“We have always prided ourselves on being a safe space for people of all identities, where love and equality are supported,” says dean and director Jon Foster-Pedley, “but it has become even more important to reiterate exactly that at this time when women and foreigners are being unprecedently targeted – with catastrophic consequences.”
Foster-Pedley said it was critically important to understand the root cause of this latest spate of xenophobia and gender-based violence within the broader South African context of societal failure in the form of state capture and corporate collusion.
“We have just emerged from a decade of delusion a steady erosion of our core values as a society. What we are witnessing on the streets, in our homes and even in our post offices, is the net result of this breakdown of trust between leaders and people and the ensuing loss of humanity,” he said.
Changing this would take both time and an unequivocal commitment from all South Africans, the responsibility could not be simply that of the government, he said.
“We need to be activists, all of us. We call on all business leaders to set the example by taking a stand against all violence in their workplaces and we call on our students to do the same as business leaders in their own right.
“As a business school we commit to working with other stakeholders to help government find ways to grow the economy and reduce the Gini co-efficient, the inequality that not only shames us all, but is one of the key drivers of the current violence.”
South Africa had incredible potential, said Foster-Pedley, but as long as the country faced slow to flatline economic growth, increasing joblessness and concomitant desperation the chances of effectively addressing this would be extremely difficult. The old mantra of the purpose of business being to make profit for shareholders had to make way for a new doctrine of creating prosperity. Henley would do this, he said, by resolutely continuing to build the leaders who will build the businesses that build Africa.
The most immediate thing though in the short term was to ensure that Henley Africa remained a safe space.
“We pride ourselves on our diversity, on our journey of transformation both in terms of gender representation among faculty and students as well as our growing number of foreign students. Henley Africa is a place where ableism, cissexism, ageism, classism, faithism, hereosexism, homosexism, racism, sexism or any other toxic behaviour will never be tolerated.
“We intend redoubling our efforts to ensure that Henley Africa remains a harassment free, safe and welcoming space for all and we will work with any and all organisations who share the same view for the nation now and in the future.”