Going it alone - again

2012-03-06 00:00

SO, the wheels are officially off.

Where to now for Business Unity South Africa (Busa)?

Is this the end of the road for Busa? Well, time will tell as it often does.

Just in case you are still wondering what this is all about, it's serious, very, very serious and the implications are going to be far-reaching as far as business unity is concerned in this country.

If you did not know, the Black Business Council (BBC) reached a significant milestone last week as it celebrated its official launch, after cutting all ties with business lobby group Busa five months ago.

A lot has been said since the tensions started within Busa. However, it is clear that this whole thing has come down to the issue of race.

People were sitting on the sidelines mocking Black Management Forum (BMF) president Jimmy Manyi when he started making noises about Busa's unwillingness to transform. A lot of people just could not resist branding him an unrepentant racist. They just could not help it.

But big Jimmy and his BMF were reacting to a much bigger underlying internal problem at Busa.

Let's start right from the beginning.

It all started as a noble idea way back in 2003 when former president Thabo Mbeki's administration put pressure on organised South African business to unite and speak with one voice.

In the black corner there existed the BBC which had been formed in 1996 and in the white corner was Business South Africa (BSA).

The two organisations merged in 2003, giving birth to what is today known as Business Unity SA or Busa.

More than seven years later racial rumblings started happening within Busa, with the BMF the most vocal of affiliates.

BMF complained that Busa's structure was fundamentally flawed with the voice of black business permanently outnumbered and suppressed. But some people still mocked BMF as no less than a bunch of petulant, spoilt racists. Little did they realise that there was much more than meets eye. That the distant rumble was about to turn into a serious thunderstorm.

Then, in September 2011 a summit of black business organisations and professionals resolved to resurrect the BBC to "unify and give black business one voice after nearly eight years of frustration".

"The resurrection of the Black Business Council marks the beginning of a new era in that black business is defining its own agenda and taking control of its own destiny," says BBC's new president Ndaba Ntsele.

Ntsele added that the merger with BSA in 2003, which gave birth to Busa, "had yielded nothing but a permanent suppression of the black voice".

So, it's no longer just tough talking. The blacks are officially going it alone again.

From what we understand Patrice Motsepe, Ndaba Ntsele, Sandile Zungu and national co-ordinator Xolani Qubeka have successfully travelled the length and breadth of the country holding provincial summits, persuading all the provinces to come on board the BBC band wagon.

It is happening. The blacks are saying "even though after 17 years of democracy some progress had been made, more meaningful black participation in the economy is non-negotiable".

They say BBC is guided by seven policy-delivery mechanisms:

• economic transformation;

• SMME development;

• infrastructure development;

• government and stakeholder relations;

• international relations;

• agriculture and land reform; and

• member organisations.

"There is a need for black business to define its own agenda and take control of its own destiny," says Ntsele.

This is serious stuff. Knowing Ntsele the way I know him, there's no going back. This is it.

But, the question is what's going to happen to Busa? Does it know what to do next?

Is this the end? It looks like it to me. — Moneyweb.co.za

• Sipho Ngcobo is former deputy editor of Business Report and ex-managing editor of Enterprise Magazine.

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