Veteran business guru Motsuenyane bemoans how growth of the industrial sector is being inhibited Legendary entrepreneur and businessman Sam Motsuenyane bemoaned how stringent labour laws in the country continue to inhibit the growth of the industrial sector. According to Motsuenyane, this is an unintended consequence of continual pressure exerted on government by trade unions. Motsuenyane, who was president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry for 24 years, founding chairperson of African Bank, and ambassador to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, was speaking after being awarded the Free Market Foundation Luminary award this week. “If our current labour laws, including the existing bureaucracy and rampant corruption, continue to create an environment where entrepreneurs have difficulty operating freely, it is going to remain problematic for new employment to be created and for entrepreneurs to grow their business,” said Motsuenyane. He said when unions conclude agreements with workers, there is no regard for how this affects the unemployed. He likened this to the harsh laws under apartheid rule. “I can vividly recall what happened during the apartheid era when those thousands of black businessmen and women’s interests and aspirations were hardly borne in mind when the laws and regulations affecting them were promulgated,” said Motsuenyane. “They operated their businesses very often illegally not because they wanted to but mainly because of the complexity of the country’s laws, which gave them no other choice.” Motsuenyane, who is a farmer, urged government to focus on the agricultural sector. He said black South Africans were being excluded from the “agrarian revolution”. “In most developed and developing countries around the world, it is agricultural development that has always been in the forefront and sparked off industrial development. “Industrialisation begins with the processing of raw materials and products associated with all produce from farming,” he said. “It is now time for our black people to pay attention to seriously playing a major role in the development of agriculture in our country, not only as peasant farmers but to becoming farmers on a commercial scale. This development should in the long run have positive impact on black industrialisation.” But he also pointed out that all the effort would be futile if the labour laws in the country stayed the same. Motsuenyane currently runs a rural development foundation that supports development of sustainable agriculture with access to markets, food security and job markets for communities in rural and peri-urban areas. He is also a project leader for the Winterveldt Citrus Farming Project in conjunction with government. “Black business people, who are today expected to play a pivotal role in finding solutions are, unfortunately, still operating on the periphery of mainstream business in South Africa. It is perhaps necessary at this time in South Africa to learn lessons from other countries on the African continent,” said Motsuenyane. This particularly as black economic empowerment had a “credibility crisis”, he said, due to the slow and unsatisfactory economic transformation progress made in the implementation of the policy. “The struggle for economic freedom in South Africa poses a serious threat for the post-apartheid generation and some 20 years into democracy has not yielded any results sufficiently impressive to inspire hope in the future development of black industrialists.” Who is Sam Motsuenyane? The son of farm workers, 86-year-old Dr Sam Motsuenyane first came to prominence in 1964 when he participated in the formation of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an organisation to support black business. Since then he has chaired many companies and racked up an impressive number of accolades. He was also founding chairperson of African Bank and has been a director at First National Bank and Transnet. He has received honorary doctorates in commerce from North West University and Wits University, and an honorary economics doctorate from the University of Cape Town. He has won numerous business awards and in 2002 he was given the Order of the Baobab, a service award from the president. He dabbled briefly in politics, with Nelson Mandela appointing him to head the Motsuenyane Commission of Inquiry into human rights abuses in ANC camps in exile. In 1996 he was appointed South Africa’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Motsuenyane is currently project leader of the Winterveldt Citrus Project. He also has a rural development foundation initiative.