Empowerment will create a more viable SA economy

To argue whether or not black economic empowerment (BEE) would benefit an elite group was a non-debate, Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin said on Saturday.

The issue was broad-based empowerment, he told reporters after a two-day meeting of the presidential black business group in Pretoria.

“The purpose of BEE is to create more business and economic opportunities for black people,” Erwin said.

“If we do that we will create a more viable economy. We should welcome it that wealthy black people emanate from the process.”

The government urged civil society not to get bogged down in a non-debate, the minister said.

He added that business leaders at the meeting called on President Thabo Mbeki to sign BEE legislation into law as soon as possible, and the president agreed.

Those attending the meeting included the leaders of the Black Business Council (BBC), the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (Nafcoc), the National African Federated Foundation for African Business and Consumer Services (Fabcos) and the Black Management Forum (BMF).

Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut (AHI) president Franklin Sonn and Business South Africa (BSA) president Attie du Plessis were invited as special guests.

Besides Mbeki and Erwin, government representatives included Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad and Minerals and Energy Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Unity among business was high on the agenda.

“The unification of different business chambers is crucial in meeting the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment facing South Africa,” said a statement issued after the meeting.

Erwin said: “Government found the passion with which business leaders spoke on why they believe unity is so important inspiring.”

BBC and Nafcoc president Patrice Motsepe said Mbeki was to oversee the launch of two new unitary organisations on October 11.

The first, called Chambers of Commerce of Industry (ChamSA), would represent Nafcoc, the SA Chamber of Business (Sacob), the AHI and Fabcos.

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) would take over the role of the BBC and BSA. These two organisations would cease to exist, Motsepe said.

The different chambers, however, would still remain active.

Fabcos president Sam Buthelezi said: “Instead of speaking with a forked tongue like in the past, we will speak with a focused tongue.” - Sapa

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