Nafcoc’s second?coming?

2014-04-27 15:00

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

The black business organisation is marking its 50th anniversary, and the organisation’s biographer, Kwandiwe Kondlo, is getting a ‘sense of revival’

In recent years, the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (Nafcoc) has been best known for its bitter leadership struggle between its former president Lawrence Mavundla and its current president Joe Hlongwane.

But the organisation’s official biographer says he is getting a “sense of revival” while doing research for a book marking Nafcoc’s 50th anniversary.

“When you study Nafcoc closely, it is like a magnifying glass that helps you understand the development of the black middle class,” says Professor Kwandiwe Kondlo from the University of Johannesburg’s School of Leadership.

“Like the ANC, Nafcoc was a broad church with many contradictions. There were the hawkers and the emerging black farmers. There were the retailers?...?People say Nafcoc is like their church.”

Another similarity to the ANC, according to Kondlo, is the commitment to the organisation he has encountered.

Instead of trying to interview thousands of members, Kondlo has organised focus groups in every province, often including members of Nafcoc’s “old guard” who are now in their late 80s.

He still needs to do this in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, where he hopes former president Thabo Mbeki’s mother, Epainette Mbeki, will participate.

MaMbeki was there for Nafcoc’s founding, he says.

Nafcoc’s 50 years are being reconstructed from archives at Unisa and Wits University – as well as papers kept by Nafcoc’s legendary president through the 1970s and 1980s, Dr Sam Motsuenyane, whose house basically also contains an archive, according to Kondlo.

Nafcoc has also commissioned a documentary film to coincide with the book.

Kondlo was in effect given seven months to research and write the book, a tight schedule for a career academic who says he insists it be peer-reviewed before publication later in the year.

“I agreed on condition that it will be balanced. I can’t go write a book that just praises them,” he says.

In the early years, Nafcoc straddled a thin line between cooperation with the system, be it in the former homelands or in apartheid South Africa, according to Kondlo.

As apartheid was reaching its peak, Motsuenyane would steadfastly disavow politics, but the ties with the ANC were always there.

During Nafcoc’s nonpolitical period, Motsuenyane’s brother provided shelter to ANC exiles in Zambia, says Kondlo.

Up until the creation of the black informal business lobby Fabcos in 1988, Nafcoc was the “uncontested authoritative voice” speaking to the state on behalf of black businesspeople.

For years after its founding, Nafcoc did not exactly find a receptive audience there, but it consistently lobbied against the elements of apartheid designed to squash black entrepreneurship.

There were limits to what goods black businesspeople could sell, how many businesses they could own and a prohibition on owning businesses in both bantustans and “white” South Africa.

Black business owners also couldn’t always pass their businesses on when they died.

The old apartheid state began opening the door to Nafcoc after the 1976 Soweto uprisings, according to Kondlo. The organisation won some concessions, including a relaxation of the ban on black property ownership into a 99-year lease system.

Nafcoc is due some of the credit for the eventual elimination of the dompas system by 1986, Kondlo suggests.

The nonpolitical veneer started fading at that point too. From the mid-1980s, the organisation became more explicit in its alignment with the ANC.

Kondlo is currently working on a chapter dealing with internal conflicts in Nafcoc.

These include generational conflicts, “provincial tendencies” and, in recent years, leadership contests.

Under the “able leadership” of Motsuenyane, these were contained, but after 1994, the organisation entered a “rough patch”.

The same could probably be said for organised business in general, which is still struggling with ­post-apartheid conflicts of interest within its constituencies.

The attempted amalgamation, which began more than a decade ago, of Nafcoc with Fabcos and the historically white Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut and SA Chamber of Business (now the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry) was, according to Kondlo, “internally divisive”.

Kondlo himself served as the head of the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry for a brief period between 2007 and 2008.

More recently, Nafcoc joined the black exodus from Business Unity SA to create the Black Business Council.

The last chapter will be on Nafcoc today and the feasibility of its plans, “given the state of the organisation”, says Kondlo.

Mavundla was Nafcoc’s president from 2009. He was expelled along with several other leaders last year and according to Kondlo, “the Mavundla group is slowly shrinking”.

In the provinces, there is “excitement” about the new leadership of Hlongwane, according to Kondlo.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.