Motswedi – Asset Manager Survey Listed Investments – July 2023
7 Sep, 2023

Mark Davids, Managing Director – MOTSWEDI


“Don’t touch me on my studio”


Some of you may remember the now, cult status of the exchange between broadcaster Mr. Chris Maroleng and a studio guest aired on SABC which went viral over 11 years ago. Where Mr Maroleng can be heard repeatedly saying the iconic words “Don’t touch me on my studio”. The exchange has become a pop culture meme synonymous with conversations where difficult topics are engaged on and perhaps someone, in the exchange, feels that a proverbial line has been crossed.


Hard conversations


In South Africa, there are many conversations which will have people “touched” on their “studio”, think politics and potholes. However, having frank conversations is the one way we will continue to find the latitude to express opinions and views which must push the status quo. The discussions around transformation, diversity and inclusion in the asset management industry are such conversations. As a result of these conversations over time, I have felt “touched” on my “studio” and there are others who may well have felt that I “touched” them on their “studio”. It may have been in the form of a hard question asked which left us feeling uncomfortable or changes proposed which challenge the current status quo in the asset management industry.


How did that make you feel?


In some of these exchanges, I was left asking myself, was I so blinded by my background of the wrongs of apartheid, that I did not approach the conversation with enough empathy and thoughtfulness, driven by my inherent bias. But on the other hand, should I be the one feeling bad for wanting to question the way things are, I am after all, the one who has been on the receiving end of many decades of structural bias based on my race, meant to specifically keep me out of my own countries financial system.


Perhaps it is in the interest of all parties concerned to approach the conversation in a manner which is less confrontational, a way where the urgency for transformation, diversity and inclusion are discussed with a view to solutions for positive movement as opposed to digging heals in. Where more black owned and organically grown businesses are included into the mainstream to see a shift from our countries current trajectory and explain better the need for this level of transformation.


How do you see it?


One could argue that many mainstream South African corporates see the level of transformation achieved thus far as good enough for where we are, especially post the poor governance years we have lived through – effects of which we are sitting with now (AKA – stage 6  loadshedding). The reality in racially divided South Africa, with its Gini Co-efficient of over 60 (pre-tax and social grants), is that people come from very different realities. As a result belief systems around what transformation, diversity and inclusion should look like are very different. I may argue for higher minimum black representation at management level, for more black female representation and for higher minimum black ownership levels for achievement of a level 1 BEE status, which will no doubt “touch” some on their “studio”. While others may argue that the current BEE targets are sufficient for where we are as a country, which will no doubt “touch” many on their “studio”.


For South Africa with her roughly 10 million unemployed people, the question should be how may we grow many more small businesses that can be seeded, developed and become the engines of employment. In asset management this entails allocating to good businesses an opportunity to manage assets.  So, I guess, hard decisions are going to have to be made and positively actioned and in this process I will possibly “touch” you on your “studio” and you on my “studio”… but these actions are for the advancement of more black owned and organically grown businesses.


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@Mark Davids
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