The battles of black business

By John Fraser

It could have started better.  On the eve of last week’s Black Business Council summit, there was a blistering attack on its president Sandile Zungu by his counterpart at BUSA, Sipho Pityana.  

Zungu had been close to Jacob Zuma, and the allegation was that he had been too close – and had been party to state capture.

Zungu, in turn, hit back, but the episode overshadowed his opening address and the whole row did little for the image of black business.

Having insisted that all delegates be there well before 9am on the first day, the session kicked off at 9.30.  After that, the over-stuffed agenda led to more and more time lapses, so that at the end of the day sessions were rattled off at insulting speed.

I am pretty sure I saw one panellist disappear in disgust at having to wait over an hour for his session.  Certainly, he was there on time, but he did not take part in the discussion.

Having experienced the disorganisation of Day 1, I avoided Day 2.

I did manage to listen to at least one excellent session, at which there was once again confirmation that Eskom’s vindictive delays in approving private sector power projects had led to manufacturing businesses going bust.

Even worse was the deplorable claim that some delays in state payments to small businesses have led to the owners committing suicide.

Unbelievable, and a strong reason for sorting out state procurement and payments, and for imposing strict penalties on those useless, scumbag civil servants who are anything but civil.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan came up with a figure of R419bn for Eskom’s debt, in what was otherwise the most political, (and least forceful) speech I have seen him give.

Meanwhile, Small Business Minister Lindiwe Zulu pulled out the race card, suggesting that corruption had begun in the apartheid era.

True, of course, but that does not diminish – as she seemed to imply – the large-scale looting carried out by the Guptas, Zumas and their many co-conspirators.

Two wrongs do not make a right.

The sooner her potentially-important – but actually waste-of-time – ministry is abolished, the better.   Our small businesses deserve proper attention, and they should be part of the mainstream discussion and government structure, not some ministerial backwater.

On balance, this was a worthwhile gathering, but the BBC has quite a way to go before it emerges as the unchallenged voice of black business.

If, indeed, we really need one in this multi-racial rainbow nation?

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