/ 8 September 2011

Business Unity SA eager to work with Black Business Council

Business Unity SA (Busa) was looking forward to working with the newly-formed Black Business Council (BBC), the organisation said on Thursday.

“The urgent need to examine ways in which black business can be strengthened and improve its capacity to fully and meaningfully participate in shaping Busa mandates is clearly a top priority for all concerned,” Busa said in a statement.

Busa expressed support for a call at the recent Black Business Summit by President Jacob Zuma to preserve business unity.

It said it remained dedicated to improving the way it was structured, the way it operated and the way it interacted with its members to best serve their interests.

At this week’s Black Business Summit, it was decided to form a new BBC to unify black business, under the leadership of businessman Patrice Motsepe.

Busa itself was formed in 2003 through a merger between the then BBC and Business South Africa.

The Black Management Forum recently suspended its membership of Busa, saying that white interests were overriding black interests.

Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba subsequently defended the forum’s decision to break away, saying there was concern about black economic empowerment “fronting” because it eroded potential for “authentic” black businesses.

“Look at the management core in South African business, look at the ownership of industries and enterprises,” he said in an interview with SAFM.

“The fact of the matter is that after 17 years of [black economic empowerment] much of what we have seen with BEE is the emergence of black shareholders who play no part in the management and ownership of the enterprises in which they hold shares. [There is] a lot of fronting.”

“Fronting” is a term used to describe the practice of white businesses presenting fake black business partners or directors in order to fulfil black ownership requirements that accompany tendering for government business.

Gigaba said it was still important in South Africa to have black business organisations.

There was still racism in the private sector, said Gigaba.

“Just look at a few things … look at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange … black ownership of productive capital is quite low. Look at the management core in South African business, look at the ownership of industries and enterprises.”

Black business people also had no access to finance, and complained that even development finance institutions were not supporting them.

“We think that the resurrection of black business is an important step that needs to be supported.”

Government needed to support black business formations and business in general. “Genuine” transformation issues needed to be identified.

In a speech prepared for delivery on Wednesday night, Gigaba said the conduct of some private companies was fuelling the debate on nationalisation.

“There is a growing underlying legitimacy crisis regarding whether the private enterprise is a ‘socially responsible’ institution, capable of both developing the economy in a sustainable manner and equitably sharing the benefits of economic growth and development.”

In a separate interview on SAFM, Xolani Qubeka, chair of the black business summit organising task team, said there was a need for a unified business structure in South Africa, and that structure was currently Busa.

“It must be understood black businesses were part of the founding of Busa.”

But, although they had resolved to suspend their membership of Busa, they had not resolved not to go back to Busa.

Their future would ride on the outcome of discussions with Busa.

Business Day reported that, on Tuesday, Busa CEO Nomaxabiso Majokweni and president Futhi Mtoba were asked to leave the Black Business Summit. They were apparently invited by mistake, and were asked to leave because Busa was going to be discussed. — Sapa