Right of reply – An entrepreneur, not a tenderpreneur

2012-12-09 10:00

I am a black entrepreneur.

The fact that I take extreme pride in the quality of my work has turned out to be both a blessing and a curse.

I look at my inherent drive to do quality work as a blessing because it brings in more business.

It’s so simple, people like quality, and they don’t mind paying for it.

Quality simply sells itself.

But, sadly, my passion for quality has also proven to be a huge drag.

Why? Because, there seems to be a tendency in our country to assume that every black entrepreneur is successful not because of the quality of their work but because of the extent of their connections.

And, therefore, only in our country, a black business person who excels has to be what Blade Nzimande calls a “tenderpreneur” – someone who uses their power and influence to secure government tenders and contracts or, as Nzimande puts it, “those who steal”.

There can be no argument about the message of journalists, editors, commentators and others who contribute to the conversation when they stick the label of tenderpreneur on the forehead of those they write and speak about in this context.

Some commentators have gone so far as describing tenderpreneurship as having the potential to transform our democracy into a kleptocracy.

The term ‘tenderpreneur’ is no more than a euphemism for fraudster, thief, corrupt individual or crook.

I am not disputing that there is much fraud and corruption in the awarding of government tenders.

This newspaper, with so many others in this country, is fraught with stories of people who have been caught, tried and found guilty.

We all know of someone who has been given government tenders as a sort of payback, in the full knowledge that they do not have the ability to deliver on those projects.

We all agree that that is despicable.

What I find annoying, though, is the glibness with which journalists, for example, refer to any black business person with the slightest measure of success as a fraudster, thief, crook or corrupt individual, euphemising it, of course, as a tenderpreneur.

I know many people at different levels of government because of my many years of political work as a proud member of the ANC. But I’m not a politician, I am an entrepreneur.

As such, I see opportunities and I turn them into business transactions.

Every one of my business transactions takes place transparently and is duly audited.

I have for many years been giving back to my community and to the industry from which I earn a living.

Since the late 90s, I have been involved in training and development programmes for entrepreneurs.

By helping people who have the skill, aptitude and attitude to be successful in the construction industry to understand the basics of running their own businesses, I hope to help build a culture of true entrepreneurship.

I fail to understand why this newspaper, and many others, consistently choose to applaud white business for converting business opportunities into shareholder value, while the successes of black entrepreneurs are scrutinised and referred to as tenderpreneurship, with or without any evidence of wrongdoing.

I implore on you to be fair when judging me and other entrepreneurs. We all acknowledge that all’s not always well in the world of government tenders , but please do not assume that a black man’s success can be defined only by the influence of the people he knows.

» Mabilu is an entrepreneur and a member of the ANC

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