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How to choose suppliers in South Africa

A new definition of supplier collaboration was introduced during an investigation-type programme on TV last night on life in South Africa, ahead of the FIFA World Cup which is starting next week.

All around the world, there are examples of suppliers being asked to obtain certifications as a condition to being considered as a potential partner. We also have examples of them being asked to develop Lean programmes, or even set up production units close to the customer’s facilities.

However, I would suggest that it is only in South Africa that a condition has been introduced based on the percentage of black employees in the suppler’s workforce. The programme didn’t go onto to investigate whether ISO 9000 and Lean were also criteria taken into consideration, but it was definitely the case that no blacks, no business.

Of course, in a country where 90% of the population is black, probably 99% of managerial roles are held by whites. The programme did manage to find the token black director who, in a similar fashion to South African rugby in the 90’s where the first black players were introduced as an appeasement to public opinion, seemed to have been ‘promoted’ specifically to be interviewed by foreign television crews. He seemed quite cool about it and openly described how his board colleagues giggled whenever he had something to say. Maybe there’s one less black board member this morning?

Of course, there was a political slant to the programme which had nothing to do with good logistics practice. Blacks were seen either as corrupt, pilandering murderers or living in hovels with excrements piling up by t he front door. Whites are either exploiting the black workers or setting back barricades on their farms to avoid having their throats ripped out by the aforementionsed pilandering murderers.

However, I do suppose that there are some fairly normal people in South Africa who are developing supplier relationships based on comparatively normal criteria, as well as some fairly normal public servants who will take time out from the charging the black demonstrators to charge English and Italian football hooligans over the next five weeks.

Hopefully South Africa will benefit from the visibility it will getting to one day finish off the work Mandela started 15 years ago now.

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