Power play at Busa

2011-05-28 14:30

Mthunzi Mdwaba, the vice-president of Business Unity SA (Busa) has ­accused Black Management Forum (BMF) president Jimmy Manyi of waging a “personal vendetta” against him in his quest to become the next Busa chief executive.

Mdwaba said: “It is a personal ­vendetta and I don’t understand how a government employee can be a driving force of ­issues related to ­business. Jimmy might also be bitter ­because I trounced him?.?.?.?during the Busa elections for vice-president five years ago.”

Manyi laughed off Mthunzi’s allegations. “They do not warrant a response,” he said.

Mdwaba also replaced Manyi as the president of the Confederation of Black Business Organisations in late 2009. And he supported Futhi Mtoba for the Busa presidency, who beat the BMF’s choice, Sandile Zungu.

Manyi is a Cabinet spokesperson and the Government Communication and Information System’s ­director-general.

Mdwaba – who is also president of the Black ­Information Technology Forum – said it was a “blatant lie” that he drafted the job specifications for the chief executive position, a charge the BMF has levelled against him.

He said the BMF was disgruntled because it had failed to persuade ­Busa that the forum should be in charge of recruiting the chief ­executive.

The previous two Busa chief ­executives, Bheki Sibiya and the ­outgoing Jerry Vilakazi, were from the BMF ranks.

Mdwaba also said that Busa ­rejected the BMF’s suggestions that the next chief executive should be a woman.

A convention at Busa since its founding has been that the chairperson is nominated from established, white business, while the chief executive comes from black organisations.

With Mtoba seen as having been nominated by and as representing big business, some black formations want to have control of the chief ­executive position to feel represented in Busa’s corridors of power.

Lawrence Mavundla, the president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and ­Industry, said Busa focused more on big business and it needs a chief ­executive who will balance things by ­advocating for small business.

The chairperson of the Black Business Council, Hlengani Mathebula, ­dismissed talk of the personality clashes as a “red herring”. He added that though the BMF was the most vocal of those opposed to Mdwaba availing himself, the view was shared by many other constituent organisations. He said: “It is incorrect that black business has a preferred ­candidate. What we prefer is that the ­person be competent.

“We believe that you can’t do a job spec, decide on the salary a person is going to earn and then avail ­yourself for the job. Something must appear to be flawed there.

“If we keep quiet as black business just because it is one of our own who is involved then we do not deserve the leadership positions we hold.”

Another Busa official with knowledge of the organisation’s management committee workings insisted the standoff was a result of ­personality clashes rather than ­principles. He said: “If people can’t stand each other’s guts, that’s fine but they should not bring their issues here (to Busa). It is also not true that Futhi (Mtoba) was nominated by white ­business. She was nominated by both black and white business just las Sandile Zungu was.

“The problem with many black member organisations is that they are not up to date with their subscriptions [to be able to vote on policy matters or endorse an appointment] just like when Futhi was elected.

“Anyway, who says Mthunzi will be shortlisted, let alone given the job? There may be far better candidates out there.”

The candidate will be interviewed by a panel made up of the president, the chairperson, the four vice-chairs and the chairperson of the transformation ­committee, Sandile Zungu, whom Busa wanted in the process.

“They will recommend the preferred candidate but council will still have to make the final decision. What is clear is that we are looking for an African. If BMF believes that they have such a candidate, let them apply and let them lobby for their person.”

There is a view in Busa’s black business section that sees Mdwaba as an extension of a ­lobby within organised business that hankers after the Mbeki-administration era, where Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), not Busa, had the ear of the highest office in the land.

The current political administration is known to prefer Busa over the ­BLSA.

That there exist tensions between Manyi and Mdwaba – and the fact that Manyi is a Cabinet spokesperson who already has the ear of President Jacob Zuma – means that Mdwaba would probably not find a warm reception in Pretoria if he were to land the job.

A senior Busa member who ­preferred not to be named said ­political connectivity was as ­important as technical and academic qualifications. He said Mdwaba lacked the necessary ear of the ­Presidency.

“The Busa CEO is a politically ­strategic position. Business must think about what is in its best ­interest. It does not help to have a CEO who does not have the ­confidence of the Presidency.

“As things stand, the Presidency prefers to do business with Busa. Why would you want to impose a CEO who will render Busa irrelevant to government?” he asked.

However, Mathebula was dismissive of this argument. “Does it mean that Busa must first ask the president who he prefers before we appoint a CEO? Busa must be in a position where it can criticise ­government if it needs to.”

Those who support Mdwaba or are indifferent to his campaign point out that just because the last two Busa chief executives were drawn from BMF ranks did not mean the ­organisation had a constitutional ­entitlement to the position.

Busa has commissioned Heidrick & Struggles, a multinational ­executive recruitment firm, to help find Vilakazi’s replacement.

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