“I accepted that if you have a problem, you must face it and not gloss over it.” Nelson Mandela, 29 December 1992
This month’s newsletter is published at a difficult time for the Nelson Mandela Foundation. At such times one realises the deep connection between human life and the life of organisations. Both experience joys and pains, hopes and anxieties, expectations and disappointments. We are currently facing one of the downsides in the life of an organisation. It is a cause of concern and worry for all of us.
The Foundation has been involved in many years of work in support of social justice in South Africa and beyond. In that time, we have also sought to achieve the same objectives in the Foundation’s own work environment. As many readers of this newsletter may already know, we are currently investigating claims made in an anonymous email sent in mid-December 2020 to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. The email raises concerns about the Foundation’s work environment and practices. Regrettably, some party within the Foundation has chosen to fuel the situation by feeding selected information and opinions to the media, in a manner that drives speculation and sensationalist reporting. All this has been distressing for the organisation. As we have over the years received extraordinary support from individuals and institutions at home and abroad, who have travelled the journey with us and believed in the causes we work on, it is understandable that at this time, they too should be anxious.
As the core custodian of Madiba’s legacy, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees is committed to ensuring good governance and ethical leadership in all the Foundation’s activities and takes seriously any suggestion of threat to these principles. That is why the Board immediately put in place an independent investigation process which is still underway.
The Board is committed to making public the outcomes of the investigation once completed, and the Board has received and considered the investigation report. We expect it early in February.
In the meantime, the Board received a request for leave of absence from the CEO, Sello Hatang, and the COO, Limpho Monyamane. This request was motivated by their desire to ensure the sanctity of the Board-driven investigation process. The Board, in the best interests of all concerned, accepted the requests.
This action by the Board should in no way be interpreted as an indication that it has taken any view on the outcome of the investigation.
To ensure continuity in the Foundation while the investigation is underway, the following temporary action steps have been taken:
- We have put in place an interim leadership structure with immediate effect. It is led by former President Kgalema Motlanthe, a Trustee assisted by two other Trustees, Alice Brown and Maya Makanjee.
- This Board leadership team has already held a town hall meeting with staff and numerous meetings with management and will ensure the Foundation’s smooth running until the investigative process has been completed and the Board has considered its findings.
We have requested all stakeholders to take a fair and responsible approach to the investigation and that the process be allowed to run its course. We reaffirm our commitment to ensuring a fair and proper investigation; a commitment we will honour.
Over the years, the governance system within the Foundation has proved to be robust and we are confident as a Board that the current investigative process will be beneficial. This would serve to further protecting the legacy of Nelson Mandela and the name of the Foundation and to ensure that it acts in the best interest of all who have supported and taken a deep interest in its work and the institutional conditions that make that possible.
Every turbulence of the kind that the Foundation is currently going through is bound to yield important lessons for the future. Those lessons will be a part of all we do to ensure that the Foundation emerges from this process stronger than before with a renewed sense of common purpose.
South Africa and the entire world are going through a great deal right now. This moment foregrounds the critical social justice issues globally between and within nation-states. Madiba’s legacy is located there in striving for a world where equity is the shared objective of humanity. People and their institutions should make such a world possible through being better human beings, and better institutions. The Nelson Mandela Foundation must remain firmly located in such strivings, and hope to emerge stronger as a participant in our joint efforts with all those who share its values.
Professor Njabulo Ndebele
Chairman: Board of Trustees
Board Interim Leadership Team