Publication Details

When Professor Mike Ward first approached me with the suggestion of making a special award of Management to me, I was lightly flabbergasted. Why should I, with my responsibilities for monetary policy, qualify for such an award? On second thoughts, I realised however, that my long career of more than 43 years in the Reserve Bank was indeed a career of management. Let me explain:

1. The management of time

In 1955, when I first joined the Reserve Bank, I was also a part-time student at the Extramural Division of the University of Pretoria. With lectures early in the morning, strict working hours during the day and lectures in the evening, I was disciplined to manage time. Long before Blanchard and Johnson wrote their best-seller The One Minute Manager, I learned how to use the 24 hours of each day to maximum advantage. Even today, management of time for me remains critical.


2. The management of projects

In my early days in the Bank, as a research assistant in the Economics Department, I was forced to pursue with my colleagues at times rather monotonous projects on the collection and manual processing of balance of payments statistics, foreign assets and liabilities, and national accounts for South Africa. A lot of it was donkey work, but in the words of my hard master of the time, Dr Bob De Jongh, one could not use a donkey to do the work. The satisfaction was in perseverance, and in producing results. These were important basic lessons in self-discipline and in management.


3. The management of programmes

During my long career in the Reserve Bank, I participated, albeit sometimes as a very junior partner, in the management of important programmes that often stretched over many years. I can, for example, refer to the introduction of exchange controls in the 1960's and, perhaps of more importance, the gradual phasing out of exchange controls over the past five years. There was the programme for the implementation of the De Kock Commission recommendations in the 1980's for the gradual liberal-isation of the banking sector, the domestic financial market and the market for foreign exchange in South Africa. I can also refer to the determined programme introduced since 1990 for managing inflation downwards from almost 20 per cent in the late 1980's to its present level of well below 10 per cent per annum.

Once again, the discipline of management is in persistence, consistency and unflinching confidence in the cause of the objective. The reward is in the outcome, even if it takes years to reach the ultimate destination.


4. The management of crises

Perhaps the most daunting challenges for central bankers come in the moment of national financial crisis. I can refer back to the gold marketing crisis of March 1968, when the two-tier marketing system for gold was introduced, and South Africa was directed to the private market for the disposal of its total gold production. With the price threatening to decline below $35.00 per ounce, the Reserve Bank had a hazardous task to dispose of a production that at that stage was still close to 1 000 tons per annum. How great was the achievement for the South African team, consisting of Dr Nico Diederichs, Dr Bob De Jongh, Dr Gerhard De Kock, Mr Gerald Browne, Mr Sandy De Villiers, and myself, in December 1969 when we reached an agreement with representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the Government of the United States of America on the marketing of South Africa's gold at a price that could never decline below $34.80 per ounce.

There was also the international debt crisis of September 1985, and the frustrating task to negotiate and manage South Africa's foreign debt in an adverse inter-national environment. Our approach was to offer to our foreign creditors only what the country could afford, and then to meet to the letter of the word all the obligations that arose from the offers we made. We had to protect South Africa's credibility in the act of default. The policy we followed at the time paid off and, when South Africa was reaccepted in the international financial markets in 1994, even our shunned creditors became our friends.


5. The management of the economy

The Reserve Bank has but a limited role to play in the overall macroeconomic policies of Government, and that is to establish and maintain overall financial stability. It is of vital importance that the Bank's policies with this clearly-defined intermediate objective in mind shall be consistent with the broader strategy of overall macroeconomic policies. The management of monetary policy within the framework of overall economic policy is a daunting one and, I may add, often an ungrateful task.


6. The management of people

The Governor of the Reserve Bank is at the same time also Chief Executive Officer of this splendid organisation. The management of people remains one of the most arduous areas of administration. The Bank has moved with the times and changed its management style from the dictatorial "Chief Cashier" of the past to the modern style of staff participation. In the process, we had to negotiate and introduce our own Mission Statement, a clear Vision for the Future, a Corporate Logo and Strategic Planning programmes. We had to involve all our staff in the management of the Bank.


7. Management of change

The South African socio-political structure changed dramatically over the past decade. The management of the transformation process is a delicate, sensitive and very important task for every institution in our country, and particularly so for a high-profile public institution such as the Reserve Bank.

Not only the socio-political structure, but also the financial environment in which the Bank must operate changed drastically over the past few years. The liberalisation of financial systems, the removal of exchange controls, the integration of the South African financial markets in the global economy, and the exposure of our economy to worldwide developments, required major changes in monetary policy, and in the management of the central bank. It is exciting to be part of this changing environment, and to be challenged on a day-to-day basis by a rapidly changing global financial system.


8. The change of management

One last task for me over the next ten months in the Reserve Bank is to guide the change of management. For Mr Tito Mboweni, nominated by Government to succeed me next year, exciting and challenging times lie ahead.

My successes were determined by the people I could work with in the Reserve Bank for so many years. Mr Mboweni will find the team of highly-motivated and experienced people in the Bank to be a great asset. The challenges of the future will be different from those of the past, but will surely not be easier. Big demands will be made on the management skills at all levels of the work force of the Bank.


9. Concluding remarks

I accept the Wits Business School Award for Management Excellence on behalf of the 1 800 managers that work for the South African Reserve Bank -- that is, the total staff complement of the Bank. It needs but a little after-thought to realise that after all central banking is about management, the management of:






Macroeconomic policies

People, and


The executives of the Bank can never escape the need for active, persistent and consistent management of these vital elements of central banking.

I thank Wits Business School for the Award bestowed on me on this occasion. I accept it on behalf of myself, my Deputy Governors and all the wonderful people that work for the South African Reserve Bank.