President Jacob Zuma has called for an end to the squabbles that have led to noticeable divisions within the country’s business sector following a decision recently by the Black Management Forum to cut ties with Business Unity South Africa.
The storm had since led to divisions, accusations and counter-accusations of racism from both sides.
But on Tuesday Zuma, who addressed an inaugural Black Business Summit in Sunninghill, north of Johannesburg, moved to rein in the warring parties. He emphasised the importance of unity within business, which he said was paramount to the achievement of the goals of the country.
He said government needed a unified and united business voice to work with. “We therefore urge you, in your deliberations to discuss the matter thoroughly with a view of finding solutions,” Zuma said.
According to Xolani Qubeka, one of the organisers, the summit was “influenced” by the decision by the BMF to withdraw from BUSA.
Zuma said he had intended to meet with BUSA last month but that the meeting was later shelved due to BUSA’s unavailability at the time.
“Arrangements will be made for us to meet. As government, our objective is to see unity … in order to focus on the economic growth and development priorities that face the country,” he said.
He did acknowledge that while politically the country had done well to establish a stable democracy, social and economic aspects of transformation were still lagging behind. The impact of poverty and inequality was still glaring and human settlements still exposed the gap between the rich and poor, rural and urban, he said.
He welcomed the initiatives by black business to engage in internal dialogue in order to assess the progress made with the transformation of South Africa’s economy. The black business sector has consistently said a lot still needed to be done to transform the country’s economy, arguing that whites still enjoyed a massive advantage.
A recent report released by the Commission for Employment Equity revealed that while black people accounted for about 86% of the employees in the workforce covered by the report, they only represented a mere 16.9% at top management level and 35% at the senior management level.
The report further pointed out that while significant progress had been made in creating a critical mass of both black people and women at the professionally qualified level, these groups seem to have “reached a glass ceiling.”
Zuma said government needed to use the legislative environment to level economic playing fields, adding that it was in the interest of reconciliation, economic growth and control of the economy.
“We have seen the effectiveness of the affirmative action in the manner in which white women and Indian compatriots have benefited… We must draw lessons from that success to boost the empowerment of other designated groups, in particular Africans.”
With regard to the ownership of the economy, Zuma said while authorities were happy to see many blacks entering the various sectors of the economy, there were no visible “black industrialists.” South Africans were not seeing large factories and mines owned by black people or women.
Zuma told the summit delegates, which included mining magnate Patrice Motsepe and business tycoon Sandile Zungu, that the South African economy needed to produce “authentic” black entrepreneurs who own factories and manufacture textile, furniture and metal products.
Report by Chris Bathembu – BuaNews