in conversation with

Benjamin Pogrund

Benjamin Pogrund is a veteran journalist, who was with the Rand Daily Mail newspaper in Johannesburg for 26 years and pioneered the reporting in the mainstream pressof black politics and black existence under apartheid.

 He has received multiple awards and has done work for the Sunday Times (London), and the Boston Globe, the Economist (London), BBC TV and radio, ITV and Sky TV, Today, The Independent, Guardian (London), Facta (Tokyo), Daily Beast (New York), the New York Times, the New Republic, Haaretz (Tel Aviv), Dialogue (Dhaka), The Star, Cape Times and Daily Dispatch in South Africa, among many others. He has also lectured on international news and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 He was friends with black political leaders, notably the late Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, Nelson Mandela (and was the first non-family visitor, after 20 years, allowed to visit him in prison), and King Moshoeshoe II of Lesotho.

During Apartheid, he was jailed for refusing to disclose the source of information of a report. He was later prosecuted over a period of four years for exposing abusive conditions in prisons of blacks and political prisoners. He was also prosecuted for possession of “banned” newspapers. He was denied a passport for more than five years. A true journalist at heart, he has displayed extraordinary courage and lived to tell the tales. 

Dr Claudelle von Eck in conversation with Benjamin Pogrund: Part 1

Dr Claudelle and Benjamin Pogrund has a discussion around the lessons he has learned from his time as a journalist during apartheid South Africa and the courage he had to display as he exposed the reality of black existence in South Africa.

Dr Claudelle von Eck in conversation with Benjamin Pogrund: Part II

Dr Claudelle and Benjamin Pogrund discuss leadership and the lessons he learned from his interaction with political leaders like Mandela and Sobukwe, with whom he had formed friendships during the apartheid years in South Africa.  

Peter Vundla

former founding member, Managing Director and Chairman of Herdbuoys Advertising. He currently chairs AMB Capital, Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital and Luna Films.

Peter currently sits on the boards of the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, Zara South Africa, Special Olympics of South Africa and the National Children’s Rights Committee.

Peter has previously sat on the boards of, inter alia, Sanlam, Wesbank, Sentrachem, Foodcorp, AMB-Foord Asset Managament, UNISA, Allianz Insurance, National Chemical Products and New Africa Investments.

Peter is a former Chairman of Mail & Guardian and has served on media boards such as the Marketing Federation of South Africa, the Institute of Marketing Management, Freedom of Commercial Speech Trust and the Advertising Standards Authority.

He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Financial Mail Long-term Achievement Ad Focus Award, ABSIP Pioneer of Empowerment and is a fellow of the Institute of Marketing Management.

He holds a DPhil and DCom, both awarded Honoris Causa.

Peter Vundla: Based on my existential experiences I would say to my younger self: “Speak your mind, but don’t forget to develop and nurture relationships”. None of us can thrive alone on an island. In a society that has become increasingly materialistic, I have learnt that it is important to understand that you should do good. The money will follow. However, in the process you should always remember to not spend money you have not earned. Your values anchor you, but remember that at the epicentre of all values is your integrity. Your integrity is your most important guiding factor. People may not always like you, but they will respect you when you retain your integrity. If you want to be successful watch who you keep company with. Keep close to winners and avoid losers. You become who you associate yourself with. With that, always remember to remain positive, but be prudent and do your homework!

Peter Vundla:

 Inflection points vary in size, impact and occurrence. The one that comes readily to mind is when I was spearheading the establishment of a break-away advertising agency from an established white-owned agency, at a time when white-owned agencies dominated the market. That was at the apex of my business life.

The most important lesson I learnt in the process was: It is not going to be easy. Period.

Peter Vundla:

I was once in the middle of a legal battle and had appointed a legal firm to represent me. Somewhere in the process the partner assigned to my case requested me to make payments directly to him and not the firm. In return he would reduce the fee for the legal services rendered.

The easiest thing to do was to take the reduction in fee and go down the path of least resistance. I advised him that I believed that making that offer was unethical. Essentially he wanted to make me complicit in stealing from his firm, so I also told him that I felt insulted by his approach. By approaching me in the first place he was suggesting that I would join him in the unethical behaviour.

I indicated my discomfort in moving forward with him as the lead lawyer in my case. I do however still feel uncomfortable about not having taken it further and reported the incident to his senior partner.

Peter Vundla:

 I would start by pointing out the consequences of unethical behaviour.

In addition to suffering reputational damage, which could be irreparable, your self-respect will decline and you may find yourself being not able to sleep soundly.  There is of course also the possibility that you may end up serving jail time.

In organisations, unethical behaviour inevitably contribute to toxicity. That impacts on the productivity of organisations.

You must do the right thing, but understand that while ethical behaviour wins one respect, you may also make some enemies in the process

Peter Vundla:

I think that we too often see lack of delivery as a result of leaders being overly focused on consensus building and consultations. While consultation is important, it can also paralyse the system if one is not careful.

In addition, there seems to be an increase in a lack of courage of conviction, which is an important characteristic of great leaders. That, together with a lack of value driven leadership and paucity of new ideas create a vacuum into which “False Prophets” can step and take the moral high ground.

Given the context of our country, we need to see selfless servant leaders at the helm. Sadly, there are not many of those leaders around.

To address these challenges we need to first review our processes of appointing/electing leaders. We also need to focus on how we develop leaders through our institutions. Education is key, as is mentorship and instilling values.

Peter Vundla:

There is still a great lack of diversity in Boards, both from a race and gender perspective. Having said that, Boards have to deal with dynamic markets and a weak economy, a mixture of over and under-regulation, costly compliance, the risk of misreading international expansion and managing the relationship with auditing firms. On top of these, many Boards also have to deal with weak management.

Peter Vundla:

Firstly, you must understand that you are on your own and that you must be willing to make the necessary sacrifices. This includes doing adequate research. Don’t look to government to help you succeed. Network, build relationships and seek alliances. Mentorship is also important in your development as an entrepreneur.

To succeed, you need to postpone gratification. Do not spend money you have not earned.

Peter Vundla:

To be a leader is to serve.  

If you carry the egg basket
do not dance.

— Ambede proverb