‘SA’S TROU­BLES ARE SELF-IN­FLICTED’

CityPress - - Business - LESETJA MALOPE lesetja.malope@city­press.co.za

Business Lead­er­ship SA (BLSA) CEO Bo­nang Mo­hale is not a man who minces his words.

“All our chal­lenges are self-in­flicted, even the re­ces­sion that we got into,” he said dur­ing an in­ter­view at the JSE this week.

“It was wil­ful, pur­pose­ful, de­lib­er­ate and con­scious.” The fault lay en­tirely with Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, Mo­hale said.

He joined BLSA a few months ago, af­ter serv­ing as an ex­ec­u­tive at oil and gas com­pany Shell for al­most a decade.

City Press picked his brain about the state of business in the coun­try and its some­times hos­tile re­la­tion­ship with govern­ment. Mo­hale said the trust deficit could not be blamed on business.

“This time, it’s not our fault. This time, we don’t ac­cept that mon­key. This is the pres­i­dent’s fault.”

Last De­cem­ber, Zuma had urged business to work with govern­ment to avoid a rat­ings down­grade, only to in­ter­fere later.

“Dur­ing Thabo Mbeki and Nel­son Man­dela’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, bor­row­ing was at 20% of the GDP. This ad­min­is­tra­tion is at 50% of GDP,” he said.

He re­peat­edly re­ferred to the Gupta fam­ily as an “im­mi­grant In­dian fam­ily”. Mo­hale’s fa­cial ex­pres­sions spoke vol­umes about what he thinks of the fam­ily and their re­la­tion­ship with Zuma.

“There is no self-re­spect­ing African who will use the terms white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal and rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion, be­cause those are not terms that were coined by South Africans.”

Mo­hale said the two phrases were the pol­icy of the Gup­tas and now dis­graced, UK-based pub­lic re­la­tions firm Bell Pot­tinger, which coined them.

The ANC’s pol­icy was in­clu­sive eco­nomic growth, he pointed out.

He re­jected crit­i­cism that BLSA was part of white­owned mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal, since its mem­bers were mostly CEOs of white-owned multi­na­tional com­pa­nies.

“The peo­ple who say that are pro­foundly ig­no­rant. There’s noth­ing as dan­ger­ous as un­con­scious in­com­pe­tence.”

He men­tioned Stan­dard Bank group CEO Sim Tsha­bal­ala, who is also a mem­ber of BLSA, as an ex­am­ple.

“Sim owns Stan­dard Bank be­cause, every year, he gets al­lo­cated shares of Stan­dard Bank.”

Mo­hale said for­eign­ers owned more than 40% of the JSE, leav­ing 60% to lo­cals. At least 39% be­longs to ma­jor in­sti­tu­tions in the fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor.

Mo­hale said that, if one were to con­sider that in­sur­ance giants were run with black peo­ple’s money, as pol­i­cy­hold­ers, and fac­tor out black em­ploy­ment, then whites did not own much of the JSE.

“That’s why the de­bate is – do black peo­ple own 3% of the mar­ket cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion of the JSE, or do they own 10%?

“If you in­clude in­di­rect own­er­ship – that I’ve got shares in Old Mu­tual and Old Mu­tual has shares in this and you strip out just the black em­ploy­ment, you will re­alise that, ac­tu­ally, white peo­ple alone do not own 10% of the en­tire mar­ket cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion of the JSE,” he said.

“So, if we were not lazy and we did a lit­tle bit of work, we’ll find that, in fact, it’s non­sen­si­cal to talk of white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal. It’s cor­rect that poverty still has a black face.”

He sang the praises of the con­tri­bu­tion of business to the anti-apartheid strug­gle.

Business de­fied apartheid to meet the ANC in ex­ile, and the Sand­ton sky­line was ev­i­dence of black and white business co­ex­ist­ing.

“Business be­lieves in South Africa; business in­vests in South Africa.

“That’s why you look at the sky­line of Sand­ton, look at the cranes – this is white business; this is black business,” he said, point­ing to the sky­line of the rich­est square mile in Africa from his sixth-floor of­fice.

Asked to point out a sin­gle black business on the same sky­line, Mo­hale re­verted to his ear­lier state­ment that the big­gest busi­nesses were built on black peo­ple’s money.

He said the ten­sions be­tween business lobby groups had a his­tor­i­cal back­ground.

They in­cluded some­times tense en­gage­ments be­tween Business Unity SA (Busa), which the BLSA is a mem­ber of, and the Black Business Coun­cil.

Mo­hale is a for­mer pres­i­dent of the Black Man­age­ment Fo­rum, which is a coun­cil mem­ber.

He sin­gled out for­mer govern­ment spokesper­son and cur­rent ANN7 tele­vi­sion sta­tion owner Jimmy Manyi as hav­ing spear­headed a num­ber of ef­forts that dis­turbed the re­la­tion­ship.

How­ever, when Manyi didn’t get his way, he re­treated.

“He sulked and went to his cor­ner,” Mo­hale said. “He pulled the Black Man­age­ment Fo­rum out of Busa. He led that walk­out … and then re­formed the Black Business Coun­cil with seed cap­i­tal from Pa­trice Mot­sepe and the six peo­ple who be­came the first of­fice bear­ers,” he said.

Mo­hale also ac­cused the ANC-led govern­ment of killing more se­nior black ex­ec­u­tives’ ca­reers than the apartheid govern­ment.

This time, it’s not our fault. This time, we don’t ac­cept that mon­key. This is the pres­i­dent’s fault

OUT­SPO­KEN Bo­nang Mo­hale

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