The challenge by the president to black business emerged in a meeting between the Presidential Working Body and the Black Business Council (BBC) recently.
Several affiliates of the BBC, including the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (Nafcoc), the Foundation of African Business and Consumer Services (Fabcos) and the Black Business Caucus were represented at the meeting.
The president has been urging black business to put its house in order and gave his blessing to conciliatory efforts by the warring Nafcoc factions at the organisation's annual congress in Sun City earlier this year.
Addressing the Fabcos annual general meeting in Bloemfontein last week, Nafcoc deputy president Vincent Phaahla said Mbeki had challenged black business representatives on the rationale of forging ahead with unity with white business if they themselves continue to remain fragmented.
Mbeki said black economic empowerment would not be sustainable if fragmentation within the black business fraternity continued unabated.
He urged the black business community to facilitate efforts towards consolidating business unity and to present a united front.
Said Mbeki: "If unity is not consolidated within the ranks of black business, business unity would carry the inherent danger of diluting structures set up by black business."
The president encouraged black business to form partnerships and conclude working agreements with white business on black economic empowerment.
Mbeki said those agreements should be related to specific projects that are "concrete and quantifiable". He added that they should be geared towards empowering black business on the ground, rather than "rely on declarations and agreements that fail to deliver any tangible results".
Not only a few individuals
Newly-elected Fabcos president Sam Buthelezi reiterated the call by the president that efforts should be intensified to unify black business.
"We are encouraged by the partnership agreements signed between the AHI (Afrikaner chamber of commerce) and Nafcoc, Sacob (SA Chamber of Business) and Nafcoc, and Nafcoc and Fabcos.
"We should build upon these gains and ensure that black business unity remains an issue of critical and fundamental importance," he said.
He called on the black business community to remain vigilant and ensure that the economic blueprint of black economic empowerment didn't remain the exclusive province of a few individuals.
"It (black economic empowerment) should not be allowed to benefit (only) a few individuals," he said.