Black business wanted a bigger slice of government spend, though not necessarily at the expense of white business, the Black Business Council (BBC) said on Thursday.
“We’d like to have a bigger slice of the cake … we are not saying they [government] must favour us over whites,” incoming president Ndaba Ntsele told reporters after the launch of the newly-established BBC in Midrand.
“We are going to compete, not just be given it.”
The BBC was resurrected last year, at a summit convened after the Black Management Forum withdrew from Business Unity South Africa (Busa) in July.
The forum claimed Busa’s structure was fundamentally flawed and that the voice of black business was “permanently outnumbered and suppressed”.
Busa itself was formed in 2003 through a merger between the then BBC and Business South Africa.
Ntsele said the BBC did not want to dwell on the breakdown of the relationship with Busa, but rather on the future of the new body.
“As of now we don’t have a relationship with Busa,” he said.
Mxolisi Zwane, BBC head of policy, said negotiations with Busa deadlocked in November, after eight meetings, over the issue of equality.
“We are still committed to unity of business, but we need to have terms that are comfortable to the growth of BBC and its members,” Zwane said.
Zimbabweans, Nigerians and white business had expressed interest in joining the BBC.
“We have been inundated for requests of membership, even from white organisations,” BBC secretary Sandile Zungu said.
The BBC would be open to all, but would now allow members to have joint membership with Busa.
“They see the future in the BBC … there are some very serious implications for Busa going forward,” Zungu said.
The BBC had 17 members so far. Busa welcomed the BBC, with reservations, in a statement issued later on Thursday.
“While Busa welcomes black business capacitating itself in order to fulfil its contribution towards a radically transformed economy, Busa’s overarching objective remains to achieve an inclusive economy, which involves business being united.”
Busa said it did not represent white business interests, and was not riding roughshod over black business. It was committed to engaging in good faith with the BBC.
“Busa believes that it is in the national interest for both the BBC and Busa to remain committed to the engagement process… and that together we can continue to explore innovative ways to ensure the realisation of a unified representative voice of business in South Africa.”
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told the BBC to help create a new economic environment in South Africa.
The BBC “are now the people who have the responsibility … to create a completely new economic environment in the next two decades”, he said.
He called on the BBC to create a new set of values for the way business was done in South Africa.
“We need to put a soul … into what has become a heartless, ruthless capitalist system that … has little regard for its impact on workers,” Gordhan said.
“As the BBC, we need to lead a debate on what kind of soul do we want for the next 20 to 30 years.”
This debate was taking place with capitalism in crisis worldwide.
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini told the BBC the country had high expectations.
“You carry a heavy burden on your shoulders … to show business is not just preoccupied with profit margins … but in building South Africa.”
Dlamini said black business understood the problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality facing South Africa.
Members of the audience represented the who’s who of the black elite in South Africa,.
They included billionaire and outgoing interim president of the BBC Patrice Motsepe, sports administrator Danny Jordaan, and businessman Vivian Reddy.
Also there were Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, and Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. — Sapa