Black Business Council must return to Busa

A leader Andile Nomlala, BMF chair. Picture: Austin Malema
A leader Andile Nomlala, BMF chair. Picture: Austin Malema

Newly elected Black Management Forum (BMF) president Andile Nomlala wants the Black Business Council (BBC) of which BMF is one of the bigger affiliates, to return to Business Unity SA (Busa).

Nomlala said the country needed to have a single business lobby group.

“BBC must exist but must come back to Busa,” he said at an interview with City Press at the BMF’s offices in Johannesburg.

He said a single business voice would benefit the country and black business.

The BBC was previously part of the Busa fold until relations soured and there was a walkout, led by BMF and its then president Mzwanele Manyi in 2011.

“We are blacks. We are poor. We have nothing. We are an economic minority and this thing of sitting in your own little corner when the people who have what we want are in the other corner does not work for me.

“We have to sit with whites and talk about what we want to achieve with them directly. We must be there at Busa,” he said, adding that he was not advocating white business.

“You can’t blame people when you have not been clear about what you want and if they don’t do what you want.

“We are sitting in our own little corners. A BMF conference is a therapy session ya boDarkie [for black people] that are complaining among themselves the entire evening and, of course, boosting one another’s morale – but the reality is that blacks are being eaten alive at Investec.”

Nomlala, a businessperson, said the tools that black business needed to succeed were in the hands of white business.

“These things we want are sitting with white business owners today. The skills, the opportunities, the infrastructure, the capital, everything sits with Absa, Investec, Nampak, all of them.

“So, what is the point of then sitting in a corner alone wanting things to happen there because the BBC becomes a concentration of tenderprenuers that are looking for opportunities in some government department?”

He said lessons should be learnt from some multinational companies that were formed by locals, such as Discovery.

He said black business had reduced itself to be middlemen despite the proven potential to build successful businesses.

BBC unlikely to return to Busa

It seems highly unlikely that the Black Business Council (BBC) will rejoin Business Unity SA (Busa), but both organisations have informally touched on the issue.

Busa CEO Tanya Cohen confirmed this week that informal talks about the issue had been held. The BBC, on the other hand, opted to remain mum when asked.

However, according to a highly placed source within BBC, the matter was briefly discussed among its leaders but the idea had not been discussed at a formal meeting.

“We are aware that there have been informal discussions among the Busa and the BBC leadership,” said Cohen when asked if the proposal came up and whether Busa would consider it.

The Black Management Forum-led exit from Busa in 2011 led to the BBC having to 
re-establish itself.

Last year the BBC leaders again staged a walkout. This time from being part of the cooperation agreement the two organisations had at the National Economic Development and Labour Council.

In both instances the BBC blamed Busa, saying it undermined the voice of black business. – Lesetja Malope

Nomlala said the country was at the crossroads because a lot of methods had been tried and tested and proved not to be effective enough.

“We have to come up with other innovative ways of dealing with this animal called transformation and economic inclusion,” he said.

He pointed out that black businesses tended to be obsessed with targeting public tenders and overlooked contracts in the private sector.

“We don’t want handouts, we want to create our own businesses,” he said.

Nomlala said BMF needed to drive the integration of the informal economy with the formal economy and the creation of small businesses in the value chain of the major corporates.

“These multinational companies will be happy to do that because it is not like we are taking anything away from them,” he said.

He said under his leadership, the BMF would also have a litigation fund, which would be used to fund pro-transformation test cases.

Nomlala said political expediency had played a major role in the downfall of a lot of businesses.

“We like making our problems white people’s problems.

“I grew up in Transkei and I saw black businesspeople and – forget about how structured apartheid and the Transkei were – black people who were building and running businesses and political elites came in with their networks and those guys that had proved that they could run a general dealer were pushed to the side because they were not comrades, because they were not in exile, they were not comrades and comrades don’t build anything.

“They are hyenas who attach themselves and feed,” he said, adding that for black business to flourish, government needed to create an enabling environment.

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