Money not root of all evil

2012-03-03 09:25

The freshly reconstituted Black Business Council (BBC) would have been hard-pressed to find a leader who epitomises the trials, tribulations and triumphs of black businesspeople in South Africa better than Ndaba Ntsele, the organisation’s new president.

Born in Kliptown, Soweto, 60 years ago and raised in Orlando, Ntsele has been in business all his conscious life, starting “when I was six or seven helping my aunt sell apples at a bus stop”.

Today he heads the pioneering black economic empowerment outfit Pamodzi with an asset base of billions of rands spread across a diverse investment base, including food, mining, engineering and technology.

He has been inducted into the prestigious Ernst & Young World Enterpreneur Hall of Fame.

He started in business selling newspapers in Hillbrow, Joburg, at night and pushing trolleys at Checkers. It was on the streets of the Joburg suburb that Ntsele made his first “acquisition”.

He bought out other vendors’ corners and they sold newspapers for him – in effect making him the supplier.

It was during this time that he hired his first employee, a white Wits University student, to drive him around on a scooter as he collected money from the newspaper sellers.

It was unheard of in those days for blacks to employ whites, let alone for black teenagers to employ anyone. By matric, he was driving his own car.

In 1979, with partners Solly Sithole and Mncedisi Manyoni through a vehicle they called Intermarketing Enterprises, they started building “Two Rooms and Garage” – township residents’ response to the apartheid state’s indifference to building new homes for growing urban populations.

By the time the Nationalist government had relented and allowed for 99-year leases for blacks, the company was ready to take up new housing developments that were taking place in Soweto Siluma View on the East Rand and Mamelodi Gardens in Tshwane.

Intermarketing Enterprises changed its name after its founders visited Zambia and stayed at the Pamodzi Hotel in Lusaka. They learnt that the name meant Unity.

Ntsele, a formidable football player at school – he played with Jomo Sono and Jerry Sadike (who both went on to achieve fame with Orlando Pirates and other clubs) in the Orlando High school team and he turned professional at Leicester City, an Eldorado Park club.

Now Ntsele must take his team spirit, energy and industry to new heights. He must lead the charge of turning the many false dawns into the glorious day black businesspeople have been waiting for for generations.

To do that, he reckons black people must change their attitude to money.

“Black people have been raised with the belief that the love of money is the root of all evil. It is the lack of money that is the root of evil. Love is a strong, positive emotion that drives you to get that which you love. Besides, having it does wonders for your confidence.

“The world machinery is financially based. Everything turns on money yet blacks never talk about it. When we do, we talk about it as if it’s a bad thing. Do you know, for example, that Patrice Motsepe’s foundation has thus far donated R100 million for social upliftment projects? Is that not a good thing?”

He also suggests a change of attitude to debt.

“Blacks have been made to fear debt. But you cannot make money without money. We would rather borrow R100 000 than borrow R100 million yet it takes the same effort.”

Ntsele is well aware that black business formations’ failure to achieve what they needed to puts pressure on the BBC.

“We are going on a strategic session immediately after the launch. We have given ourselves 90 days to come up with a structured response to the challenges and to come up with policies. We will announce a five-year plan of sustainability.”

That the summit last September to discuss the future of black business’s involvement in Business Unity South Africa and the launch was funded by black businesspeople makes Ntsele optimistic.

“Access to funding was our forebears’ downfall. The world has changed since then. South Africa is no longer an isolated country. We can go overseas to mobilise funds.”

Ntsele sees the Afrikaner empowerment that followed the election of the National Party in 1948 as a model worth following.

“Afrikaners built their economy on debt. They used their land as the balance sheet and borrowed against it. They realised that ownership and control were key in creating own wealth. We should be like them and do what they did to pull ourselves out of the doldrums.

“Black people need to form corporatives. Unless you have a big balance sheet, banks are not going to lend you a lot of money as an individual. Banks know that if you were to be hit by a bus, they will never smell their money again.

“It is easier for banks to lend money when they know that if something happens to one person there is a succession plan or a mastermind group.”

Ultimately, the BBC’s success must be measured against what future generations are able to make of the foundations set this week.

“Transformation would have happened if we saw more wealth and opportunities open up for black businesspeople and professionals. We need to set a positive platform on which to build for our children and our children’s children.”

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