Poverty is black, wealth is white

2014-10-29 06:45

Xolani Qubeka argues that Herman Mashaba’s take on black industrialists is jaundiced and that policy is required to create strong black-owned firms

The headline “You can’t create industrialists like magic” was a shocker, according to Nomali, my personal assistant, and I must say it took me by surprise as well.

“Hey XQ, did you see the shocking article ka Herman Mashaba in the City Press yesterday? Buti ngikuphathele i-copy in case you didn’t see it because ngiyazi wena uhlala u-busy, how can he talk like that as if ukhulumela abelungungu tjo! I am shocked!” she said.

Yes, I had read the opinion piece and I must say it bordered on misinformation. As our public influence gains prominence, we should be using words carefully and applying phrases wisely, lest we damage young minds.

My brother, your assertion that “if government wants to make sure all industrialists are black, it will mean introducing measures to prevent people of other races from succeeding”, implicitly says government will introduce reverse discrimination. You can’t be serious.

In fact, your assertion is a fair description of the racist policies of the defunct National Party, which legitimised “measures to prevent black people from succeeding”, to borrow a part of your phrase.

In this country, the colour of poverty is black and the colour of wealth is overwhelmingly white.

Only a handful of blacks are wealthy; so the deliberate agenda to create black industrialists is critical. We would have hoped you would join us and share your experiences.

Government’s function is not to create jobs. Yes, it must create an environment conducive to economic growth through appropriate policies.

The private sector should be playing a leading role in supporting the creation of new enterprises and providing them with greater market access, as well as contributing towards bridging their capability gap.

The Black Business Council (BBC) strives to place significant equity of the economy into the hands of the majority of our people.

The private sector continues to shed jobs in the name of improving efficiencies and building shareholder value. The focus on building industrialists is dependent on fostering symbiotic relations between large companies, including state-owned companies, and SMMEs.

As a country, we need to address factors contributing towards inhibitive costs for start-ups, including labour costs, and we can no longer shy away from this conversation. As sensitive as it is, the army of unemployed demands of us to confront it.

The creation of the small business development department provides a golden opportunity to build a robust and sustainable policy environment that places SMMEs at the epicentre of economic growth through a bold SMME policy master plan.

Your statement that “politicians sometimes seem to think there is some kind of magic they can employ to make things happen, like the creation of 1?000 industrialists in the same way a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, but industrialists are not rabbits and politicians are not magicians” is a mockery, devoid of ideology, and cannot be taken seriously.

We agree with you that we need to drastically reduce unemployment, and that self-employment is the answer.

I like using the example of Afrikaner economic empowerment.

Poverty and illiteracy among Afrikaners did not resolve itself. It took the National Party’s political power to serve as a game-changer, at a time when Afrikaners comprised about 2% of the economy, mostly in agriculture.

The Nats realised poor Afrikaners were competing for the same jobs as blacks and that is probably one of the reasons segregation and job reservation (read “affirmative action”) was introduced.

The Nats mobilised Afrikaner brain power in all facets of society into a unity of purpose to drive Afrikaner empowerment, including the clandestine Broederbond (read modern-day transparent BBC).

The Nats’ project was successful because they did not have Afrikaner apologists criticising their cause. Instead they mobilised and used the power of the state to create an Afrikaner economic power base.

Your Volkskas, Allied and Sanlam banks formed part of this hegemony.

Similarly, we have to create strong, black-owned firms to promote African hegemony, including strengthening our skills base with the massive production of engineers, artisans, researchers and scientists.

Qubeka is secretary-general of the Black Business Council and chief executive of the Small Business Development Institute

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