Minister Jeff Radebe paints a bleak picture of black business in SA

Durban – Black business should not be apologetic about its cause to radically transform the South African economy so that it favours black people, said Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe.

"We do not have to be apologetic about our cause for radical transformation of the South African economy so that it favours black people and Africans in particular.

"We need to walk tall as black entrepreneurs to improve this economy of our country and African continent. Take advantage of the black industrialists without fear, the funding is there.This is what Don Mkhwanazi would have wanted us to do," said Radebe.

Radebe was paying tribute to the late Durban businessman Don Mkhwanazi, who died of a suspected heart attack last Friday, at the Durban City Hall.

However Radebe also painted a bleak picture of the current black business landscape.

"In 2016 the summit of black business excellence was still as unreachable and illusive as the proverbial horizon.

Black business creating barriers

"As black business languishes in the foot of the mountain of this long journey, it is [rife with] black back stabbing, as if this was not enough of an audit of black business… jealousy and doing one another down reared their ugly head."

He said while black business struggled for unity, some within the ranks were "self hating to such an extent that they spread-eagle themselves as crumbs for white people".

He said there were some black businesses that deliberately created barriers for those wanting to enter sector, especially young black and emerging entrants.

"Just as black business is caught in this dilemma of how to extract itself from these evident contradictions, one individual who could have had insights to resolve this dilemma, suddenly departed," he said of Mkhwanazi's sudden death.

He said Mkhwanazi's departure created a conundrum.

Radebe also lambasted the manner in which several newspapers had described Mkhwanazi over the years, particularly on the week of his death.

No political connections

"As soon as the big news that the big tree that Don Mkhwanazi was had fallen, newspapers rushed to outdo one another. I agree with the headline that he was the giant of economic freedom empowerment but I dispute that he was politically connected."

He said Mkhwanazi was connected to uplifting black business.

"He merely emphasised that politics and the economy were two sides of the same coin."

He said a headline stating that Mkhwanazi was the godfather of business might sound innocent.

"But it should not be misconstrued to be some mafia-like behaviour because Don operated his businesses transparently."

He said South Africa should find comfort that Mkhwanazi was a soldier who died with his boots on.

Futuristic outlook

Radebe said Mkhwanazi never waited for government, he was always proactive.

"Deracialising the economy was in itself a noble idea because there can be no peace if black deprivation and white entitlement exist side by side…. It was people like Don who knew all too well that white business could not succeed in a sea where black business was systematically excluded."

He asked the mourners how they would pay tribute to Mkhwanazi, a gallant individual.

He said Mkhwanazi had a futuristic outlook on life.

"Sadly it is a future which he won't be able to shape physically but his views will always be taken into consideration even though he has departed."

President of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry Zeph Ndlovu said he first met Don in the 80s in the factory floors of Unilever.

"Bra Don singularly introduced young upcoming managers to entrepreneurship development with the sole view of opening up avenues of business ownership at a very tender age. Today we celebrate some of those successes."

Group CEO of Transet Siyabonga Gama, who was a close family friend, said the value of true friendship was seldom known until it was lost.

"He had always wanted to put the black entrepreneur at the centre of the economy rather than on the periphery," said Gama.

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