Black business must unite to fight poverty

2011-06-04 11:46

Last week’s City Press read like yet another obituary for black business leadership.

I have yet to read what the views of these numerous bodies about the new growth path are, and about the unemployment and skills debate that is raging in our county.

Instead, all we ever get to read about is who is going to be the next person in charge.

Why can’t black business ­develop and unite around a decent programme to review the country’s economy and where it is going?

We must start wondering what the true impact is of all these structures that are fighting about who is going to be in charge.

Can someone explain the most ­recent memory of a serious discussion paper, resolution or intervention passed in the interest of the country by the National African ­Federated Chamber of Commerce?

Confine your inquiry to the last six months and tell me why this organisation still needs to exist.

And what of the Confederation of Black Business, which has found itself in the news about leadership contests as well?

Have they run a campaign that can be seen as aiding the advancement of black business?

Have they produced so much as a scrap of paper telling us their vision for the country’s economy?

It really seems as if all we ever get to read about regarding these organisations is aborted AGMs, multiple conflicts about leadership and accusations of power grabs.

Recently, the Black Management Forum (BMF) also entered this fray, where past presidents expressed a lack of confidence in the current president of the body and went public to elevate the issues of leadership squabbles to the status of the only thing that the public gets to talk about.

The current fight over who these black organisations are going to back to head Business Unity South Africa has the potential of dividing black business interests.

It also further entrenches the view that it is time for change in these organisations – to give way to younger leadership with less political baggage.

The debate has degenerated into something even worse. Judging from the current discourse, what has emerged is that people must now choose someone who has the “ear of the president”.

Read that to mean someone who is pliable or close to the powers-that-be.

This means that you are building a business sector – a part of civil society – that must work on the basis of political factionalism and open patronage.

Unfortunately, we have become a group of self-censoring business personalities afraid to contribute to the national economic debate.

The coverage that black business gets would be comforting if it was merely a sign of poor communications, but it seems it’s a symptom of a disintegration.

On this score, the chairperson of yet another black business organisation, the Black Business Executive Circle, Hlengani Mathebula, has to be commended for even being able to spell the sentence that ­questions this patronage angle.

When all is said and done, the wonderful-sounding aims and objectives of all these black organisations mean little if the only time they make us take notice of them is when they’re fighting among themselves.

Can someone whisper in the “relevant ears” that no one really cares, and the majority of us would rather these bigwigs talk about how they intend to work together in our ­economic struggle?

» Tabane is a media commentator and ­businessman 

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