As I write this second-to-last letter as President of the SAIMM, we are midway through the year and more than 100 days since the first lockdown was announced on 26 March 2020 in South Africa. It’s early July and the coldest winter in ten years, and I chose one of the coldest days of the month, on a Saturday morning, to ride 50 kilometres around town. I was prepared though, covered head to toe in winter gear, including a buff cloth as a mask. There were fewer cyclists than normal (perhaps because of the cold?) but a lot more runners than I had expected, also in winter gear and masked as a protocol in response to COVID-19. Everyone was covered and therefore unrecognizable, and it was difficult to see the determination or strain in their faces from their efforts.
Wearing masks has become normal and may prevail for longer than we would wish for. We have become unrecognizable to each other as people and so we easily walk past one another, and at a distance for additional protection against the virus. Conversation and collaboration now take place only through online meetings – from my own experience, the benefits are limited because person-to-person interaction as we have known it before is required in order to find solutions to the many challenges that are ahead of us.
While we may not recognize one another at an individual level, we recognize institutional brands – I’m referring to the many institutions that have thrived through this period of the pandemic; the brand does not wear a mask as it stands resilient and responds to the challenges from the virus. The ‘new normal’ provides an opportunity for institutions to rise to the challenge and opportunities that are emerging from this period in our lives. They will be able to do so because of the invested capital within their organizations, viz., intellectual capital from the human resources and innovation; financial capital as a result of strategic and prudent management of operations and balance sheet; relationship capital invested with employees, customers, suppliers, communities, civil organizations, shareholders, and government; and lastly and most critical, leadership capital, which will provide the vision and bold actions required to overcome the socio-economic and environmental challenges we are faced with.
The SAIMM is a brand more than 125 years old which has prevailed through the challenges and tribulations of the mining, minerals, and processing industries. We are transforming and responding to the damage done by the virus, by adopting technology innovations to continue our important work of professional development and crafting a new value proposition for our members and stakeholders. It is a difficult period, but we will prevail as we harness the intellectual, relationship, and leadership capital within this institution