/ 16 September 2011

Busa exposed to transformation by fire

An economic revolution is at hand, according to the newly reformed Black Business Council. But it is yet to be seen how it and the ailing Business Unity South Africa will work together.

Black business organisations expressed their dissatisfaction with lack of transformation at a summit last week, where they resolved to resurrect the Black Business Council (BBC) and suspend membership of Business Unity South Africa (Busa). The council wants to fundamentally transform Busa and will next week present a list of demands.

Council spokesperson Sandile Zungu said the BBC would make its decision about whether to affiliate with Busa only following discussions with the organisation. According to Business Report, the demands include: direct representation of black business at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac); joint presidents representing black and white business; that black and white business enjoy an equal vote; Busa agrees to direct funding of black business by the government through Nedlac; and that Busa supports proposed labour-law amendments.

Zungu, however, said the list was “unauthentic”. “Issues may have arisen, but they have been neither rejected nor accepted,” he said. “The truth is we still have to constitute a proper negotiating team.” But he said business interests must not be compromised.

If the outcome of the meeting with Busa is unfavourable, Zungu said, the council might instead choose to form direct relationships with various organisations on different issues. The council would also keep a direct line open to government. “We don’t want to see government only through Busa. Never again will we make that huge tactical mistake.”

Regardless of the outcome, BBC will apparently fulfil the role of a champion in the business sphere. “Black business will punch at a different weight going forward,” Zungu said. The council will act as a facilitator and will not be involved in various projects.

The National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc) and the Black Management Forum (BMF) withdrew from Busa before the summit, citing lack of transformation as a key issue as well as accusing it of siding with white business. Zungu said transformation had become a “bantustan”, just an existing structure.

The last straw, he said, was when Busa vice-president Mthunzi Mdwaba was involved in drafting the job description of the chief executive and then also accepted nomination for the position during the decision-making process.

Mdwaba, president of the Confederation of Black Business Organisations, which convened last week’s summit, said it is an outright lie that he was involved in the drafting of the job description. “It is a false and damaging allegation,” he said. “It is a fabrication intended to give himself [Zungu] mileage at the expense of my name.”

Fairly and Comprehensively
Another concern was that as Busa occupied all the seats, not enough business groupings were represented at Nedlac.

The Democratic Alliance’s trade and industry spokesperson, Tim Harris, agreed that it was critical that the structures representing organised business at Nedlac did so fairly and comprehensively. He said it was important at Nedlac that Busa, as the representative of organised business, was able to show that it did indeed represent South African business as a whole.

The BBC will be led by its steering committee, with wealthy businessman Patrice Motsepe as chairman. It aims to launch officially in two months.

Busa said it welcomed the opportunity to engage on the issues raised about economic transformation and business unity, as well as the functioning of Busa as a whole. It also noted its fervent support for President Jacob Zuma’s call to preserve Busa.