Claim­ing lit­tle has changed in 23 years, Sam Mot­suenyane is ad­vo­cat­ing black unity to ef­fect real transformation

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In the twi­light of his life, Sam Mot­suenyane (90) re­mains a frus­trated man even as his con­tem­po­raries and pro­tégés cel­e­brate his decades of ser­vice to the coun­try. BEE and its in­tended gain – transformation – have failed, he told City Press. Hours be­fore, dozens of his friends, fam­ily and busi­ness al­lies had gath­ered at Sun City in North West for an event held to cel­e­brate his life­long con­tri­bu­tion. The event was at­tended by distin­guished South Africans such as min­ing mag­nate Pa­trice Mot­sepe and for­mer Con­sti­tu­tional Court deputy Chief Jus­tice Dik­gang Moseneke, among oth­ers.

“Over the past 20 years, there is not much to be grate­ful for,” said Mot­suenyane, a self-made en­tre­pre­neur and strug­gle ac­tivist.

“We have higher un­em­ploy­ment and in­creas­ing poverty. Some­thing is wrong.”

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s govern­ment has faced re­newed calls for what the ANC Youth League terms “rad­i­cal transformation”, 23 years after it came to power on prom­ises of “a bet­ter life for all”.

It was hoped that by now, South Africa would have shed its no­to­ri­ety as the coun­try with the world’s worst in­come in­equal­ity gap.

Yet, after more than a decade of BEE pro­grammes, lit­tle has changed and too few black peo­ple have been brought into the main­stream econ­omy.

Last week, the pres­i­dency an­nounced that this year’s state of the na­tion ad­dress (Sona) – which Zuma will de­liver on Thurs­day at 7pm – would “re­flect strongly on rad­i­cal so­cioe­co­nomic transformation” and dis­cuss ways of reignit­ing eco­nomic growth.

The theme for Sona 2017 is The Year of Oliver Regi­nald Tambo: Unity in Ac­tion. To­gether Mov­ing South Africa For­ward.

This trib­ute is apt as it com­mem­o­rates the cen­te­nary year of Tambo’s birth while cel­e­brat­ing his 50-plus years of po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism in the ANC. Mot­suenyane re­calls Tambo for an­other rea­son. In 1986, he and a del­e­ga­tion from the Na­tional African Fed­er­ated Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try (Naf­coc) trav­elled to Lusaka in Zam­bia, then the head­quar­ters of the ANC in ex­ile.

The meet­ing cen­tred on transformation, but the ANC ap­peared to have paid lit­tle at­ten­tion to what was dis­cussed then and was now sad­dled with the same prob­lem, Mot­suenyane said.

“We talked transformation with Oliver Tambo. We dis­cussed with the ANC the shape of the econ­omy in the fu­ture. We agreed for cer­tain trans­for­ma­tions to be done. At the time, it was just a vi­sion.

“But since [the party] came back, it has not had suf­fi­cient con­sul­ta­tion with black busi­ness, and es­pe­cially not with Naf­coc.”

Mot­suenyane said in 1986, the agree­ment called on the white-dom­i­nated pri­vate sec­tor to open op­por­tu­ni­ties for black-owned busi­ness in the main­stream econ­omy.

“Our vi­sion was far in ad­vance of any­thing they had looked at be­fore,” said Mot­suenyane, re­call­ing how the Fi­nan­cial Mail, which re­ported on the meet­ing, had called this vi­sion “a pipe dream”.

Mot­suenyane traces his start in busi­ness to the 1960s, when he and his col­leagues es­tab­lished black in­for­mal trader or­gan­i­sa­tions, which united to form the Na­tional African Cham­ber of Com­merce (Na­coc) in 1964. Its aim was to take on the apartheid state.

In re­ac­tion to the regime’s hos­til­ity, Na­coc was re­named Naf­coc in 1968, be­com­ing an um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion which was recog­nised ac­cord­ing to re­gions. Its goals were to pro­mote co­op­er­a­tion among black busi­nesses and en­cour­age self-help.

Mot­suenyane was elected Naf­coc pres­i­dent, a po­si­tion he held for 24 years. He is cred­ited for mo­bil­is­ing the cap­i­tal that led to the es­tab­lish­ment of African Bank in 1975 – in so do­ing, re­al­is­ing Naf­coc’s dream of cre­at­ing a bank for black peo­ple. He is also lauded for hav­ing men­tored some of the coun­try’s best black busi­ness lead­ers and ad­vanc­ing black busi­ness is­sues through the dark­est days of apartheid.

“We sur­vived by chal­leng­ing the sys­tem, but not enough of us came to the fore be­cause of it,” he said.

“We need real transformation, en­com­pass­ing more of our peo­ple.”

Mot­sepe, whose foun­da­tion spon­sored the Sun City event to hon­our Mot­suenyane, told the gath­er­ing that to black busi­ness, Mot­suenyane was what Nel­son Man­dela had meant to South Africa. “There is none like him,” he said. Moseneke called Mot­suenyane “a good man” whose morals and in­tegrity were sorely needed in South Africa. “He is a great, ded­i­cated and vi­sion­ary leader.” The for­mer di­plo­mat, par­lia­men­tar­ian and com­mu­nity builder laments the prob­lems that con­tinue to im­pede the growth of black busi­ness, in­clud­ing in­ad­e­quate fund­ing and pro­hib­i­tive reg­u­la­tions and the lack of title deeds for peo­ple who own prop­erty in ru­ral ar­eas.

“In the ru­ral ar­eas most of our peo­ple have no title deeds. This does not help them ac­quire suf­fi­cient se­cu­rity for the banks. We have to change that.”

The emer­gence of for­eign busi­nesses in the town­ships was a prob­lem re­quir­ing state in­ter­ven­tion to en­sure ev­ery­one in the coun­try came through le­gal chan­nels, he added.

But what con­cerned Mot­suenyane most was the lack of unity in en­gag­ing govern­ment to ad­vance black causes. “We are di­vided. It is im­por­tant to bring these groups to­gether to find a solution. There has to be a lot of di­a­logue – not only be­tween black peo­ple, but also with govern­ment. Maybe BEE is not the best for­mula for trans­form­ing busi­ness. We need to move the ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple to eco­nomic dom­i­nance.”


THE LEADER Mot­suenyane poses with a del­e­ga­tion from Naf­coc, which he headed for 24 years, in Ad­dis Ababa, the cap­i­tal of Ethiopia

THE POLITICAN Mot­suenyane has a chat with Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma

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