Now, if I were Pravin...

CityPress - - Business - Muzi Kuzwayo busi­ness@ city­press. co. za Kuzwayo is the founder of Ig­ni­tive, an ad­ver­tis­ing agency

‘Wives are young men’s mis­tresses, com­pan­ions for middle age and old men’s nurses,” wrote 17th-cen­tury English philoso­pher Fran­cis Ba­con. Thank­fully, the world has changed a lot since then, but sadly, in many re­spects, it re­mains the same. Africans largely re­main the “hew­ers of wood and draw­ers of wa­ter”, as Hen­drik Ver­wo­erd said when ar­gu­ing for the in­tro­duc­tion of Bantu education.

I have high hopes as the min­is­ter of fi­nance, come­back kid Pravin Gord­han, takes the podium again. He is the de facto CEO of the coun­try. He draws up the bud­get and must clearly ar­tic­u­late the re­turns he ex­pects from each min­is­ter, as well as his depart­ment.

His job is to grow the econ­omy and undo our apartheid legacy. We are fail­ing not be­cause of his poli­cies or the Zuma-Gupta de­ba­cle. One of our big­gest con­straints is the depart­ment of trade and in­dus­try (the dti). Gord­han should be tough on the dti’s min­is­ter, Rob Davies; call him into a room and speak frankly to him.

He must look him straight in the eye and tell him qui­etly but firmly: “Rob, you’re mess­ing up. If you were black, you would have been fired long ago. Your job is to grow the econ­omy, not shrink it. Is that clear? You have made do­ing busi­ness in South Africa ex­tremely dif­fi­cult, not to men­tion al­most im­pos­si­ble, for black busi­ness to grow and com­pete with white busi­ness. You’ve turned run­ning a busi­ness into a crush­ing bu­reau­cratic ex­er­cise.

“Rob, you ex­pect some­one who starts a busi­ness to ap­ply to the Com­pa­nies and In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Com­mis­sion and re­new this ev­ery year?

“It may be okay for a white busi­ness, which can em­ploy an army of con­sul­tants, to do so. What about black busi­nesses in places like Sterk­spruit and Grey­town in the East­ern Cape? Do you know how much doc­u­men­ta­tion is re­quired to start a com­pany? Do you re­alise that by in­creas­ing bu­reau­cracy, you are in­creas­ing in­ter­nal bar­ri­ers to trade?” “The prob­lem, Com­rade...” “Shut up, Rob! Just be­cause I was elected demo­crat­i­cally doesn’t mean I have to prac­tise democ­racy. I want 6% growth, Rob. I want 6 mil­lion jobs, and stop mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for South Africa to at­tain that. Next! What’s your port­fo­lio again? There are 70 of you; I can’t re­mem­ber what ev­ery­body does.” “I’m the min­is­ter of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.” “Ebby Pa­tel. And what eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment have you brought about?” “I ...” “The econ­omy is shrink­ing, Ebby. Use­less peo­ple like you in the pri­vate sec­tor are hauled through a com­pe­tence in­quiry to see if they’re fit for the job. We have a min­is­ter of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, yet the econ­omy is shrink­ing! I’ll tell you what I’ve de­cided to do: you’re re­trenched. I’m merg­ing your depart­ment with Rob’s.

“It’s a proven for­mula in the cor­po­rate world: when two or more com­pa­nies are in­di­vid­u­ally in trou­ble, merge them. So, I’m go­ing to merge the dti with the depart­ment of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Ebby, you know how South Africa goes: you’re eas­ily dis­pens­able. It’s noth­ing per­sonal, Com­rade. You know dung rolls down­wards. It’s the whites, then In­di­ans, fol­lowed by the coloureds, and in the bot­tom toi­let it’s the Africans, even to­day. Ask Nene.

“And Rob, now that you’ve kept the job, I know you’re a good man and your heart is in the right place, but you must de­liver, Com­rade...”

Yes, I do have hope, but then my ex­pe­ri­ences of this coun­try force me to ask my­self this ques­tion: What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween hope and ly­ing to your­self?

All I can say to small black busi­ness, which will not be con­sid­ered in Par­lia­ment, ex­cept as a to­ken of ap­pease­ment, is do not de­spair. Those who see you through tinted win­dows are blinded by the beauty of blue lights and op­pressed by the sirens of power. They are not killing you in­ten­tion­ally.

They’re not ill-na­tured; they’re good peo­ple. So keep crawl­ing. That way, you can’t hew any wood or draw any wa­ter for any­one.

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