MTN South Africa CEO Godfrey Motsa has penned a powerful e-mail to the company’s employees, decrying the xenophobic attacks on foreigners over the past week as well as violence against women.
In the letter, sent to TechCentral by an MTN insider, Motsa says: “What we are currently seeing in the streets of our cities is despicable.”
MTN Group operates in many markets across Africa. Its biggest subsidiary is MTN Nigeria, where it has more than 60 million subscribers. On Wednesday, it closed all its stores and service centres in that country fearing reprisals for the violence against Nigerian citizens in South Africa.
Motsa’s full letter is published below.
There is blood in the streets, the blood of our nation’s women and the blood of our brothers and sisters caught up in acts of xenophobia. What we have seen unfold over the last few days is abhorrent and has left law-abiding South Africans speechless. But saying nothing does nothing.
In my life and career, I have worked and lived in many African countries. At one time Uganda, Rwanda, Swaziland, the DRC and Lesotho, have all been my home. The welcomes have always been plentiful and many of our colleagues across the MTN Group will testify to the fact that wherever our MTN travels take us, we are treated with respect and dignity. Africa shaped me into who I am, and it helped build my career, to be the CEO I am today.
These are complex issues and we know there are many factors fuelling this violence and strife, but my message to all of us is simple — our fight for human rights has shaped our history and I call on all people to stand together against xenophobia and gender-based violence.
At MTN South Africa, we believe in the power of diversity and we unequivocally condemn all forms of violence, oppression and intimidation.
To our women, I am sorry. I am sorry that men are failing our country. I am sorry that instead of driving change, men have chosen to fight hashtags. An injury to one is an injury to all. And I am sorry that the language of violence, disrespect, power and oppression has become so deeply ingrained in our culture that our “normal” is a brutal reality, one that frightens and limits women and girls across our country.
I am a father to two girls, a husband to one wife, and a first born to a single woman who raised me. It pains me to my core that they cannot walk in our streets because their safety and security is never a given. As men, we have failed and before men shout me down with the flimsy “not all men” argument, think this through…
Every sexist joke, every loaded stare, every whistling catcall and every lingering touch created the smallest wave and it is those waves that have now coalesced into the tsunami of abuse, violence and death that stalks the women of this country.
What will we, the men of South Africa, do to change? How will we hold each other accountable? Do we have the strength of character to stand up to our brothers and challenge those comments, those looks and those snide remarks that created this tsunami of violence? I want to call out the men who beat women — you are cowards!
Yes, this is a complex issue. But we can’t pretend this is a “them” issue — this is an “us” issue. As men, the smallest actions of change will start to turn the tide against this violence that plagues women. Uyinene Mrwetyana had her whole life in front of her but now, she will be remembered for how she died. In my house there is no room for violence. In the MTN company that I lead, there is no room for prejudice. What we are seeing is an aberration, it must stop, and I commit to playing my part in the hope that others will join me in speaking up against gender-based violence.
Prejudice suffocates diversity, in the same way that xenophobia and violence exist to oppose anything that is different. What we are currently seeing in the streets of our cities is despicable.
Since 1994, no other company has built a pan-African outfit that can rival MTN’s scale and reach. We are Africa, and Africa is our home. Let us stand together against gender-based violence and xenophobia.