Black business bodies turn on BMF

Johannesburg - Business Unity South Africa (Busa) has taken the street fight to the Black Management Forum (BMF), and the managers' organisation finds itself – at least for now – without the backing of the black business or professional associations it had claimed to be speaking for.

Established business, the major funders of Busa, also added their voice by demanding that Black Management Forum (BMF) ­president Jimmy Manyi decide whether he speaks for government or for business.

Business Leadership SA chief executive Michael Spicer said Manyi should consider relinquishing his position as either BMF president or cabinet spokesperson.

Spicer said: “When Manyi starts speaking, it is not clear whether he is representing government or ­business.

“It is highly inappropriate for a government official to influence the appointment process in an organisation like Busa,” he said.

Spicer said Manyi was conflicted. “For instance, Manyi is an architect of labour bills and business is opposed to the labour bill. When he opens his mouth, it is not clear whether Manyi is speaking as a businessman or a government official.”

In a letter leaked to the media this week, the BMF threatened to quit Busa unless it was given the exclusive right to recommend the names from which the next Busa CEO would be appointed.

It further claimed that it had the support of the Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants of Southern Africa (Abasa), the Black Lawyers Association (BLA), the Black Business Executive Circle (BBEC) and the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industries (Nafcoc).

A statement signed by BMF managing director Nomhle Nkumbi-Ndopu reads: "Following some bilateral consultations that the BMF has had with some of the black member organisations (Abasa, BLA, BBEC and Nafcoc), the BMF can confirm that there is consensus amongst black business that they should be the ones to be entrusted with the responsibility of submitting a candidate or two for the appointment of Busa CEO.

"This would be a step in the right direction.

"This caucus has made it very clear that it would not be supportive of any other name that it had not submitted. Simply put, the caucus requests Busa to limit the number of candidates to only those that would be submitted by the black caucus.

"If Busa accedes to this request, it would be a major step by them to embrace transformation. As for the BMF, this is a deal breaker that would determine further participation of the BMF in Busa."

Breach of corporate governance

On Friday, Nkumbi-Ndopu accused Busa president Futhi Mtoba of a conflict of interest.

"Last week in the City Press Mthunzi Mdwaba admitted that he managed the campaign for the Busa president," said Nkumbi-Ndopu.

"This situation implies that it is payback time for Mdwaba, and Mtoba is protecting him because he managed her election. This process smacks of corruption and breach of corporate governance," the BMF managing director said.

She said that the BMF was, however, not staging personal attacks but was focusing on breach of corporate governance.

She said some people were trying to marginalise Manyi and the BMF. "This is not a Manyi and BMF issue. It is a black business issue."

Contacted by City Press Business, Abasa, BLA and Nafcoc said their organisations sang a different tune, either dismissing the BMF position outright or that they had not yet taken a position.

Abasa president Lwazi Bam said: "It was unfortunate that a simple process like the appointment of a chief executive has created such noise. If you look at the substance of the controversy, there is a misinterpretation of what constitutes corporate governance.

"The job specifications of a Busa chief executive are public information and any applicant or potential applicant can have access to such information.

"How can this be ever be construed as 'insider trading'? It is an over-interpretation of what constitutes good corporate governance."

He said Abasa had no intention of withdrawing from Busa. "I also don't believe that the majority of black organisations will withdraw from Busa," he said.

He said black organisations needed to increase their participation in Busa to ensure that the positions taken by the organisation were legitimate and not only reflected the views of established business.

Laughing stock

BLA's general secretrary Kathleen Dlephu said the association had not discussed the issue and therefore had no position on it. She was unaware of her organisation agreeing with the BMF over the process outlined by the organisation.

"If there is such a position, maybe the president (Nano Matlala) was part of such a meeting," said Dlephu.

Matlala had by the time of going to press not responded to calls and text messages sent to him.

Bafana Ndendwa, chairperson of the Black Business Caucus in the Built Environment, said: "The issue of appointing a new chief executive is turning black business into a laughing stock because Mthunzi Mdwaba is not the only candidate.

“The issues raised by black business are genuine but the measure used to judge Mncane Mthunzi should also be applied to all other candidates.

“Or else what black business is raising will look like a witch-hunt against Mthunzi. Black business should investigate other candidates as some of them might have skeletons in their closets,” said Ndendwa.

He advised black business to forward names of its own candidates.

Nafcoc president Lawrence Mavundla said he will meet with the president of Busa this week to discuss the issue.

"I will talk to Mtoba with an aim to find a solution to this issue," he said.

"If we have a president like Mtoba, who is always accessible, why should we pull out of Busa?" asked Mavundla, adding that Nafcoc's future at Busa will be guided by the outcome of his meeting with Mtoba.

A Busa official close to the process, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Busa had consciously decided to take the war to the BMF.

"They overplay their relationship with the presidency. They think they have a better relationship than all of us collectively.

"The BMF thinks that they are the only people who support this government. They think that only they have the ear of the president."

- City Press

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