Showdown looms as Busa elects new chief

2011-07-30 13:55

Business advocacy grouping Busa is expected to announce its new CEO on Thursday, a move that could spell the end of the tenuous unity within organised business formations.

Several black business organisations affiliated to Busa have repeatedly voiced dissatisfaction with the process of appointing a new chief executive to replace Jerry Vilakazi.

They argued that the process was unfair because one of Busa’s vice-presidents, Mthunzi Mdwaba, had drafted the job specifications for the chief executive job and subsequently applied for the job.

The process of finding a new CEO has been acrimonious, with Mdwaba accusing government spokesperson and the Black Management Forum’s Jimmy Manyi of pursuing a “personal vendetta” against him because he had previously beaten Manyi for the post of Busa vice-president.

The scene is therefore set, regardless of who is appointed, and attitudes would have been hardened because Busa went ahead with the process despite reservations by black organisations.

This will further strengthen the hand of the lobby within black business that believes that Busa serves the interests of established white business and ignores black perspectives.

The name of the preferred candidate is a tightly held secret, but regardless of who it is, the incumbent will immediately have to attempt to hold together an organisation divided along racial lines or manage what will be one of the organised business formations.

The announcement will be the latest challenge that Busa president Futhi Mtoba has faced since she was elected last year.

The Black Management Forum criticised her ascension as a blow against transformation, even though she is a black female, but later recanted.

Two black business organisation leaders speculated Busa was taking a gamble, hoping that the new CEO would be a person of enough gravitas within black business organisations that the disgruntled black organisations would be appeased and not pull out of the body.

In June, the forum pulled out of Busa over its contention that Mdwaba ought not to have applied for the job.

Other black business organisations agreed to embark on a two-month process of consulting with their members on whether to follow the forum’s example.

Prominent businessman Sandile Zungu, a member of Busa’s committee in charge of recruiting the new CEO, has since suspended his participation in the organisation in solidarity with the black formations.

Black Business Caucus chairperson Hlengani Mathebula also argued against the process.

Unlike the Black Management Forum, which Busa insiders said wanted to continue the tradition of Busa chief executives being chosen from the forum’s ranks, the Black Business Caucus argued that office bearers availing themselves for executive positions could set a bad precedent.

The Black Business Caucus argued that this could cause office bearers to make the lives of executives difficult, forcing them out and then applying for the jobs that they themselves coveted.

This week Mathebula said: “They can do what they want.”

Mathebula has previously told City Press that his organisation was not interested in who the new CEO was, but was concerned about the appointment process.

Busa has consistently defended its position, arguing that Mdwaba’s participation was minimal and that the job specifications had evolved.

A senior Busa official, requesting anonymity, said the appointment announcement showed that the hardliners fixated with putting the Black Management Forum and, in particular, its president, Jimmy Manyi, in “their place” rather than fostering unity, had won the day.

“Love it or hate it, the Black Management Forum is the intellectual centre of black business. It is the most organised of black business organisations.

“They are the ones that conceptualised the BEE Commission, which became the torchbearer for what later became BEE legislation.”

He said it was because of the forum’s influence that local companies had adopted the Sullivan Code – a seven-point plan introduced in 1977 to pressurise foreign companies doing business in South Africa to ignore state policies and treat employees equally, regardless of race.

A split along racial lines would also pose a headache for government when deciding on whose voice it ought to regard as the legitimate voice of business. Busa currently represents organised business at Nedlac.

It also means that the legitimacy Busa has enjoyed in arranging who within the business community joined state trips would now come into question.

Busa president Mtoba and her deputy, Raymond Parsons, were said to be in a meeting with Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. No other Busa official was available for comment on Busa’s behalf.

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