Min­is­ter talks down black busi­ness lobby

CityPress - - Business And Tenders - DEWALD VAN RENS­BURG dewald.vrens­burg@city­press.co.za

Dur­ing a heated ex­change at the Na­tional Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and Labour Coun­cil (Ned­lac) in Jo­han­nes­burg on Fri­day, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han ac­cused the Black Busi­ness Coun­cil (BBC) of try­ing to “cap­ture” Na­tional Trea­sury, ac­cord­ing to sources who wish to re­main anony­mous.

The min­is­ter tra­di­tion­ally goes to Ned­lac two days af­ter the bud­get speech so that con­stituen­cies – busi­ness, labour and the com­mu­nity – can be given a chance to pro­vide feed­back.

Busi­ness is rep­re­sented by Busi­ness Unity SA and the BBC.

Zitha Dube, the act­ing CEO of the BBC, read a state­ment that at­tacked the bud­get speech as con­sist­ing of “plat­i­tudes about trans­for­ma­tion”.

Ac­cord­ing to this state­ment, Gord­han had not once men­tioned the term “rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion”.

Ac­cord­ing to a source who at­tended the meet­ing, Gord­han replied by read­ing a list of pages from his speech on which the term “rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion”, or a per­mu­ta­tion of it, does ap­pear. There were five.

“You ob­vi­ously didn’t read the speech,” Gord­han re­torted, ac­cord­ing to the source.

Gord­han then said peo­ple needed to be hon­est about their po­lit­i­cal in­ten­tions.

“The pub­lic is very aware of what is go­ing on. They know your agenda is to de­stroy Trea­sury ... to cap­ture Trea­sury, but the pub­lic knows what is right and wrong.”

An­other per­son at the meet­ing told City Press that Gord­han ac­cused the BBC of “rep­re­sent­ing a sin­gle fam­ily” – an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to the Gup­tas.

Mzwanele Manyi, head of pol­icy at the BBC, then asked Gord­han to re­tract this state­ment, which he re­fused to do, said the sec­ond source.

Manyi con­firmed by SMS that the min­is­ter had made the state­ment about the BBC rep­re­sent­ing “a fam­ily”, and also that he made the “cap­ture” re­mark in an “in­nu­en­do­type ar­tic­u­la­tion”.

The BBC in­vited the me­dia to at­tend a press con­fer­ence at Ned­lac af­ter the meet­ing, how­ever, it did not in­form Ned­lac of this and was re­fused per­mis­sion to use the venue.

Re­cently ap­pointed di­rec­tor of Ned­lac, Madoda Vi­lakazi, was seen telling BBC del­e­gates that the de­ci­sion was fi­nal.

The BBC state­ment that Dube had read in the Ned­lac meet­ing listed sev­eral com­plaints.

The bud­get speech had “no align­ment with the state of the na­tion ad­dress”, reads the state­ment.

“There was no men­tion of the Black In­dus­tri­al­ist Pro­gramme, which is one of the ma­jor pol­icy in­stru­ments to achieve rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion,” it said.

“De­spite fear­mon­ger­ing by the rat­ings agen­cies, the BBC does not be­lieve that South Africa has a debt prob­lem. South Africa has a net loan debt of 45.5% of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct. This is rel­a­tively low by in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.”

The BBC ac­cused Trea­sury of “sid­ing with the fi­nan­cial sec­tor to force through a [BEE] char­ter that en­dorsed the prin­ci­ple of ‘once em­pow­ered, al­ways em­pow­ered’”.

Other points of crit­i­cism in­cluded a fail­ure to amend the “dra­co­nian Pref­er­en­tial Pro­cure­ment Pol­icy Frame­work Act” to al­low for “set-asides” – con­tracts only avail­able to black busi­nesses.

“White mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal will con­tinue to be the main ben­e­fi­cia­ries.”

Re­cently, a lim­ited form of set-asides have been in­tro­duced, cov­er­ing 30% of large con­tracts that need to be sub­con­tracted to black and/or small com­pa­nies.

The BBC said that this should be 51% and that small, white-owned com­pa­nies need to be specif­i­cally ex­cluded.

An­other de­mand was that black busi­nesses be al­lowed “to par­tic­i­pate in the re­struc­tur­ing of the Post Of­fice and SAA, and the li­cens­ing of new fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions”.

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