White people ‘have to be begged to transform’

2012-07-04 16:12

White people have to be “begged” by black people to transform the economy and create social harmony, business leaders told the Social Cohesion Summit in Kliptown.

Black people never begged to be oppressed, but now they have to beg white people to reconcile, National Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Lawrence Mavundla said today.

Mavundla told delegates at government’s summit in Soweto “the issue of social harmony seems to be a black issue because white people, you have to drag them to talk about this and about transformation”.

Mavundla elicited cheers and laughter when he said: “Even if you ask them (white people) in a meeting, please don’t dominate us in business, they want to dominate us.”

Mavundla said black people trying to negotiate their way into the economy with black businesspeople eventually amounted to “black on black violence”.

The Black Business Council’s Sandile Zungu said business had a role to play in transformation projects, but they must get involved from the beginning to the end.

“Too much of the time business throws money at perceived problems and walks away, just to soothe some of its guilt,” he said.

He also said black people shouldn’t become “second class citizens in our economy”.

Zungu said social cohesion would take more than just talk. “Our people won’t eat slogans,” he said, nor will the changing of street names and the building of monuments alone make a change in their lives.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the 2010 Soccer World Cup showed that South Africans could unite, but “unfortunately today that optimism is fading.

“The inequalities in access to healthcare and education remain as wide as ever. The Limpopo school textbook scandal has put the spotlight on the ongoing struggle of poor, African learners to gain access to even the most basic educational tools,” he said.

His words echoed those of President Jacob Zuma, who earlier told the summit the spirit of the tournament could be fostered to help with nation-building.

In the conclusion of his written speech, which he didn’t have time to deliver, Vavi said it was regrettable that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s call for a once-off wealth tax to reinforce government’s efforts at redress “has been frowned at by many”.

South Sudan’s minister of culture, youth and sport, Cirino Hiteng Ofuho, told the summit earlier that his new country applauded South Africa’s efforts at nation-building and would learn from its example.

He urged Zuma, who convened this week’s summit, to call a summit to get the whole of the African continent to talk about social cohesion.

The continent’s colonial past had left it divided.

“In Africa our past colonial legacy told us we are not a people,” he said.

He said they emphasised petty differences between people, but “we are all human beings, and that is exactly the lesson we want to learn from South Africa when Nelson Mandela wanted a rainbow nation”.

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