BEE AND SUC­CESS

SA busi­ness could do with more black sol­i­dar­ity

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Thami Mazwai

THE RE­CENT march by black lawyers to the pres­i­dency highlights three is­sues: the poor com­mit­ment to black eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment (BEE) from some parts of the govern­ment; poor en­tre­pre­neur­ial sol­i­dar­ity in the black com­mu­nity; and se­vere short­com­ings of en­ter­prise cre­ation in our ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem.

It is not sur­pris­ing that black lawyers marched to the pres­i­dency be­cause they do not get busi­ness from the state. In fact, it would be un­sur­pris­ing if other pro­fes­sion­als such as the en­gi­neers did the same.

Af­ter all, com­mit­ment to BEE has more to do with some min­istries than govern­ment as a whole.

For in­stance, for­mer min­is­ter Stella Sig­cau, and then lately Fi­nance Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba, took the bull by the horns to in­te­grate black char­tered ac­coun­tants into real busi­ness. Be­cause the two made sta­te­owned com­pa­nies give au­dit­ing busi­ness to black ac­count­ing firms, we now have more than 10 healthy black-owned ac­count­ing firms, with SNG and Sekela Xabiso the bet­ter known.

The lawyer’s march is jus­ti­fi­able if only to make some in the govern­ment live up to the spirit of Sec­tion 9 Sub Sec­tion 2 of the Con­sti­tu­tion that “mea­sures de­signed to pro­tect or ad­vance per­sons, or cat­e­gories of per­sons, dis­ad­van­taged by un­fair dis­crim­i­na­tion may be taken”.

Many govern­ment sec­tors have been hard of hear­ing and, to make a point, we hear very lit­tle on how black firms are go­ing to get a size­able chunk from the in­fra­struc­ture roll-out pro­gramme. In­stead, over­seas firms are first in the queue and are then begged not to for­get BEE.

Ye Gods, we are beg­ging peo­ple to do what they do in Asian and Arab coun­tries as a mat­ter of course.

Fur­ther­more, the apartheid in­spired Na­tional Party govern­ment was un­blink­ing in plac­ing Afrikaner firms first in the line.

Thus, we want to hear this from Min­is­ter Ebrahim Pa­tel as Min­is­ter Rob Davies has a black in­dus­tri­al­ist pro­gramme, which de­pends on the in­fra­struc­ture roll­out pro­gramme for the sur­vival of these in­dus­tri­al­ists.

It is the in­fra­struc­ture roll-out that must em­power black firms big time in the en­gi­neer­ing, roads, wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion sec­tors, to men­tion a few, as the pri­vate sec­tor will ig­nore them as is the case right now.

Un­less this is done, the pre­vi­ous play­ers in the hard sec­tors and their for­eign com­peti­tors will con­tinue to be in the pound seats.

Thank­ing God for small mer­cies, the new Pro­cure­ment Act and its 30 per­cent set aside for black small busi­nesses may as­sist.

Now let us deal with the two other is­sues.

The first is to what ex­tent is black sup­port­ing black in busi­ness? Talk­ing in broad terms, to what ex­tent has in­de­pen­dent Africa shed it­self of the colo­nial­ism in­duced gospel that what is Euro­pean is su­pe­rior and what is African is sav­age? And, to what ex­tent has a post-apartheid Black South Africa also res­cued it­self from this men­tal­ity?

Pa­tron­age

Not when lo­cal and in­dige­nous en­trepreneurs in black ar­eas do not en­joy pa­tron­age from their kith and kin. It does ap­pear the gospel of yes­ter­year that qual­ity re­sides else­where and not in us still holds sway.

A fu­neral house which in days past would not even touch a black corpse is to­day dom­i­nat­ing black ar­eas in bury­ing the dead.

As the Afrikan­ers would say: Skande! In­deed, it is a dis­grace that a lo­cal ac­tivism, which suc­cess­fully ral­lied us against apartheid, is not driv­ing a cam­paign that frees res­i­dents in black ar­eas from this bondage of low eco­nomic self-es­teem.

This bondage flows from the days of apartheid and says black prod­ucts and ser­vices are in­fe­rior. It is par­tic­u­larly wor­ri­some as the Gaut­eng govern­ment has rightly turned the ne­olib­eral trickle-down eco­nom­ics par­a­digm up­side down with its town­ship economies re­ju­ve­na­tion agenda.

If we do not sup­port the ef­forts of David Makhura by buy­ing from the en­ti­ties his govern­ment is ca­pac­i­tat­ing, we are sim­ply shoot­ing our­selves in the foot.

The Gaut­eng govern­ment is do­ing its pa­tri­otic bit and the town­ship con­sumer must now also come to the party.

The other is­sue is that a few years ago Teddy Blecher led a task team of the SA Hu­man Re­sources Coun­cil on en­trepreneur­ship.

His team made ster­ling rec­om­men­da­tions that en­trepreneur­ship ed­u­ca­tion must be given from pri­mary school up­wards.

I have just re­turned from an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence and coun­tries have a com­pul­sory mod­ule on en­trepreneur­ship for pro­grammes at uni­ver­si­ties and tech­ni­cal col­leges.

We need to do the same so that doc­tors, lawyers, en­gi­neers and other pro­fes­sion­als leave var­sity ready to set up busi­nesses or, bet­ter still, cre­ate part­ner­ships.

This will re­sult in us blacks be­ing an en­tre­pre­neur­ial com­mu­nity and we then stop re­ly­ing on 10 per­cent of what oth­ers have cre­ated.

There’s noth­ing wrong with BEE share own­er­ship codes but, with all re­spect, this does not cre­ate jobs. It is more about tick­ing the box than about black em­pow­er­ment. Ad­mit­tedly, is no mu­tual ex­clu­siv­ity on get­ting shares and cre­at­ing own in­sti­tu­tions.

How­ever, the high gini-co­ef­fi­cient within the black com­mu­nity, if fig­ures re­vealed by Pali Le­hohla are taken into ac­count, says giv­ing shares to in­di­vid­u­als or groups is trans­for­ma­tive but is not enough.

Long last­ing em­pow­er­ment is the cre­ation of new wealth; hence we must laud the emer­gence of new busi­ness houses cre­ated by blacks.

This is the only way to go as fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will then re­spect us; just as young Afrikan­ers hold the creators of San­lam, Volk­skas, Afrikaner Volks­be­leg­gings and other Afrikaner busi­ness houses in high es­teem. Cre­at­ing 100 per­cent black-owned com­mer­cial houses and sup­port­ing them deals with the three is­sues high­lighted above.

Long last­ing em­pow­er­ment is the cre­ation of new wealth; hence we must laud the emer­gence of new busi­ness houses cre­ated by blacks.

Dr Thami Mazwai is spe­cial ad­viser to the Min­is­ter of Small Busi­ness Devel­op­ment, but writes in his per­sonal ca­pac­ity.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba has in­te­grated black char­tered ac­coun­tants into real busi­ness. There are now more than 10 black-owned ac­count­ing firms in SA.

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