One can almost imagine the brigade of legal vultures lining up from designated law firms, entrusted to protect white monopoly capital to ensure that their businesses and reputations are preserved.
We have heard enough pessimistic and sensationalised statements and utterances going around ridiculing you, DJ Sbu. This is the harsh world of capitalism.
What transpired can be summarised in the album of the hip-hop group Public Enemy, titled Fear of a Black Planet, which criticises institutional racism and white supremacy. Your case is bigger than this trivial furore around Forbes magazine. Your case largely centres on the brand MoFaya, the energy drink that you and other black entrepreneurs have invested heart, soul, money and mind into. Your story about MoFaya exposes the institutionalised racial divide in the economy; it exposes the gatekeeping in business across the board and the intransigent attitude of whites who sit in their boardrooms failing to embrace black businesses or success.
Hoarders of the economy
First and foremost, the people who refuse to distribute MoFaya are corporate racists that see blacks as mere consumption vessels and labour that must be utilised and exploited for their gain; a tradition deep-rooted in the economy and failing to brake faster than we wish. These corporate giants are cartels that continue to milk the continent dry. These are powerful entities of this world that have successfully built unions determining what must be purchased in the market. The very same white corporates have colluded on various projects to fix prices and control the market.
These are corporate entities notorious for meagre wages and using labour brokers to exploit our people. These are racists that continue to bleed and exploit the township economy flourishing in malls and killing anything that resembles a black enterprise. Ironically they never classify the millions they make through the black majority as inferior money, yet are quick to exclude black products in the goods they sell. Lest we forget their tactics in dumping inferior goods in township markets that aren’t eligible for the suburb market.
They are hoarders of the economy that have been left to do as they please, because the Competition Commission seems toothless in its approach and lacks will and institutional muscle to protect young emerging entrepreneurs like yourself. Hence even after the cartel case of bread, bread prices have not even decreased and the likes of Albany and Blue Ribbon remain supreme players even for basic goods.
I am quite certain that after the Forbes tumult this will be used by all those that had nothing on you, as a tool to degrade who deride you, forgetting that young black men like you have defied all odds to place genuine black business on the agenda beyond the confines of spaza shops. Seemingly this is perceived as the beginning and end of an entrepreneur’s dream from the township. A distortion you have proven otherwise.
You might have broken some rules according to self-anointed rule-makers, but can this world of rule-makers explain why a black man ends up stealing platforms when he is a genuine businessman. Why is the ceiling so low for so many genuine black entrepreneurs if indeed we are to enjoy the fruits of democracy? Why is it that it has to be so hard in your own country to distribute a beverage? Is this an issue of quality assurance. Iif so, why aren’t self-proclaimed pioneers of transformation leading and assisting you in ensuring that you reach that level? Why is it that black millionaires and billionaires (by the way very few) have to be affluent and connected people who only seem to thrive on passive black economic empowerment deals linked to bigger white corporate entities. Aren’t we thirsty to see a new generation of black entrepreneurs that have literally started from the bottom and genuinely benefited in the democratic dispensation?
On the radio show in which you were interviewed by a rather sarcastic presenter, the representative of Forbes had the audacity to say that the magazine showcases hard-working Africans on the continent (clearly by their Eurocentric standards, no different from the beauty magazines that have determined African beauty). Has this magazine showcased black men and women who have built township economies from scratch, black men who painstakingly started small businesses in the taxi industry and built empires?
A man whose family tree is robbed
My point is, these white elitists will never understand or acknowledge our struggle in a country we call our own. How do we expect them to when their supremacy is deep-rooted in the economy they stole and have shown no remorse for brutalities of the past? They will never understand the struggle of a man whose family tree has been robbed of their birthright, who literally started on the streets because a bank will never afford him that opportunity.
You don’t need Forbes to affirm your ability to pioneer and break new ground. You are a true affirmation of what a black entrepreneur is and the injustices that they confront daily. I am utterly disappointed in the decision taken by the SABC. Rather than throwing the baby out with the bath-water, possibly there could have been innovative ways to resolve the issue constructively within their mandate to uplift our people to rise from the ashes and break the shackles.
If indeed the government is serious about black industrialists, it would be good to see men like yourself at the black industrialists’ indaba influencing decisions to be taken by the deputy minister. But more importantly that you benefit and many others who have a similar vision to yours, taking South Africa global. You are a reflection of the dreams that at times wither in township communities. The hustler that soldiers on despite his tribulations, the young black men and women who make mistakes but rise above all odds. The true definition of what the late struggle icon meant when he said “Long walk to freedom”.
The struggle’s torch-bearer
This journey you have embarked on is a long journey towards economic emancipation and freedom of many black men and women. You have clearly picked up the baton, noting that by doing so at times is unpopular, even your own people will easily turn against you. Those who claim to understand what the struggle presents us with today know that they have a moral and revolutionary duty to walk with you and millions of others in your shoes.
This generation has become the torch-bearer for this leg of the struggle, claiming economic freedom in their lifetime. Sadly your case reflects the many traps and barriers we will confront in our journey towards realising this generational mission. You have made corporate South Africa uncomfortable so indeed you will be victimised. Brands you will compete with are all run and owned by white entities, yet sold even in black communities, to no economic benefit to our communities. Your struggle is no longer yours alone, but it’s a struggle of many million young South Africans confronted with gatekeeping, empty promises and hopelessness, yet one thing for sure we are not deterred.
Forbes can take their gracious brand and continue with whatever it is that they do, which doesn’t necessarily benefit most blacks anyway. South Africa can take stock from our Nigerian counterparts who have mastered ambush marketing and setting new trends on how to sell their products and brands. Nigerians have produced reputable international brands and powerhouses without the help of the likes of Forbes magazine or white corporate channels of promotion. They don’t ask for permission, they demand their space and hence today we consume a lot of their entertainment, even worldwide. The interesting thing is that we are still largely one of the countries in Africa where whites dictate terms of engagement, business, run the economy and own the bulk of our land. Things are transforming gradually but pioneers like yourself must never be fazed by sideshows that will deter you from a bigger goal.
A battle of two economies
Your frustration is a reflection of many growing frustrations and impatience in the economy, especially of black young entrepreneurs. Your success will open many doors for many and more importantly inspire generations to come. Our people in township communities can’t even breathe economically because the township economy has been prostituted to people with no interest of developing the township economy that wants to dump products. Our townships are surrounded by China cities and malls and every franchise of white monopoly capital thrives from wages earned by our people. Interestingly the majority of products that are sold aren’t even South African, let alone black South African. The dilemma we confront today is that we have subconsciously confined the entrepreneurial success of a black man or woman to the township, isolating him from the mainstream economy and conceding to the current preposterous economic status quo. This is a harsh revolution Sbu, as former president Thabo Mbeki once indicated, when he was deputy president, it’s a battle of two economies, one subservient to the other.
It would have been fascinating to see the reaction of charlatans had you been a white boy from Parkhurst or Camps Bay. The profiling around you after this controversy would have depicted you as a downright genius in marketing. Sadly, treachery prevails in the world of white capitalists. What really breaks my heart is the black armchair critics on social media who seem to have become reverberators of white monopoly capital stench more than whites themselves. A vivid demonstration of what author Chika Onyeani labelled as a Capitalist Nigger, blacks who parade as definers or custodians of blackness yet enslaved by consumption of goods manufactured by whites. When we must come out and commend what you do daily for most children and youth in townships, we seemed eager to throw salvos and torrents. Sadly most are loyal consumers of brands you are competing with, failing to see the potential to break into a market that has never seen a success story from a black entrepreneur.
Clearly you are way ahead of your time and generations to come will reap the benefits of your struggles today. Don’t be deterred as your persistence encourages and inspires many young people. Salute your hustle, your perseverance and determination, but more importantly the loyalty you demonstrate to the constituency you represent ekasie: young men and women from the townships who have seen doors closed or shut in their faces. You represent the young guy who has just opened a car wash with nothing but a bucket, liquid soap and cleaning material. Sbu, you represent the guy who hasn’t been employed for years, yet chose to sell fruits and vegetables on the corner rather than commit a crime. You represent the student who has graduated with a degree yet will never get a job as fast as his white counterpart. You represent the aspirations of ‘ikleva’ from Alexandra who walks to Sandton city every day just to escape his harsh poverty realities in the ‘hood. You represent the young boy who pushes the trailer every day in taxi ranks hoping that one day life will change.
You represent the young woman who wakes up early every day selling scones and buns at the taxi rank, jealously guarding her dream of running a catering business one day through the little rands she saves. You represent us, Sbu, young men and women who are eager to fight white capitalists, hellbent on throttling anything that represents black progress to the mainstream economy, but have nothing but will. You represent a mass of young black men and women entrapped and strangled by white monopoly capital. You represent those young boys and girls who are sitting at home with matric certificates with no hope of furthering their studies. Let them keep their “credible” Forbes, continue ambushing these white capitalists, ambush them on their shows, by all means if we have to call in radio stations daily and just say “MoFaya” let’s do that. You will never get space, you will never be given a silver platter by whites, they hate us, they hate our success, they look down upon our government, and they look down upon any black man who seeks to emancipate himself from the shackles of slavery.
Your court is on the streets
You are a black entrepreneur and we need more patriotic black entrepreneurs that will fly the flag beyond the shores of South Africa and the continent. We need more black business men and women who will not just be mining moguls or billionaires by buying equities and sitting politely next to a white man on boards. We need the Maponyas, Kunenes and Herman Mashabas of today. We need a network beyond the confines of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and the Black Business Council, which have sadly become toothless entities by allowing such things to happen on their watch. Through men and women like you the government must vigorously demonstrate that it is indeed serious about black empowerment.
Sbu, you will never win this in court, it’s their playground and a tool that was once effectively used to jail innocent men and women who fought for what we have today. Your court is on the streets, your defence team and witnesses are the millions of South Africans who look up to you and those who can attest to the changes you brought into their lives.
Let them keep their Forbes: with your talent I have no doubt you will create your own, which will showcase the real hustlers and entrepreneurs of Africa.
Gugu Ndima – Supporter of Black entrepreneurs @MsNdima