‘You’ve missed the point’: A response to Sandile Zungu

Sipho M Pityana has responded to Sandile Zungu with another open letter. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images
Sipho M Pityana has responded to Sandile Zungu with another open letter. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images

Sipho M Pityana has responded to Sandile Zungu with another open letter. 

Dear Sandile,

Thank you for responding to my open letter which invited an open discussion on business ethical leadership.

Unfortunately, you seem to have missed the point.

My key issue up until now, Sandile, has been the unethical conduct that has been a trademark of your past. We can now add to that your dishonesty in owning up to that past and trying to rewrite history, in being a useful comprador for the barons of state capture, and then selling out the very crooks you were once proud to have as business partners.

Sipho Pityana Picture: News24

You were an unscrupulous state capture collaborator. And, while I do not want to engage in a tit-for-tat, I must correct some of your attempts to airbrush history – particularly your collaboration with the architects of state capture, and your dealings with the Guptas. I do so if only to ask black business whether it is right that we be led by a dishonest Gupta protégé.

Your flat denial that you ever had a business association with both Duduzane Zuma and the Guptas, in light of extensive media coverage that brought this to the nation’s attention, is incredibly dishonest. Your expectation that we should believe you simply because you insist that it never happened leaves us not only feeling disrespected, but also wondering what else we don’t about your role in state capture.

Unless you come clean, you cannot be worthy of our trust.

In an interview you conducted with Business Report journalist Ingi Salgado on August 17 2010 – which has not been corrected or challenged – you disclose that the Guptas invited you to be part of the ArcelorMittal transaction.

You say that you sold the Guptas “my uranium mine in Klerksdorp and they committed to concluding the transaction within the time, which they did, and they committed to pay us our money, which they did. So I had got a sense already that these were honourable people, and so when they invited me to lead this consortium, I said ja. I never had misgivings at all.”

There is it, in black and white, in your own words.

You need to tell us why they chose you and what made you their obvious choice. Is it possible that they saw in you a bird of a feather; and vice versa?

Your account of your break from Business Unity South Africa (Busa) is equally dishonest and doesn’t help us retrace our steps to a BBC that was the pride of black business.

If your agenda was transformation, why was the election of an African woman as the president of Busa such an affront to you, when you had tolerated a lack of progress for so long? Shouldn’t your first responsibility have been to offer her support and standing in solidarity with her in what was likely to be a tough anti-transformation environment as you describe it?

Sandile Zungu. Picture: Supplied

You probably forgot what you said at the time.

But let me remind you: in the same Business Report interview, you pledged your loyalty to Futhi Mthoba when she was elected Busa president. In your own words: “… it was an open elective process and Futhi Mthoba beat me to it. She really put up a good fight and she beat me and I accepted defeat. But I work with her, I’m still the chairperson of the transformation policy committee of Busa, and I pledge my loyalty and allegiance to her. I’m working with her to make sure that Busa fulfils its objectives and lives up to expectations of organised businesses.”

Again, in black and white, in your words.

I’m still battling to comprehend the 360-degree turn which led to the breakaway and the formation of the Black Business Council (BBC) outside of Busa.

What I also continue to find curious is the consultative meeting that you and a few others held with former president Jacob Zuma prior to the formation of BBC 2.0, which still requires an explanation. Is this where you were persuaded that your agenda won’t be well served with business leadership in the hands of someone who didn’t form part of your corrupt circle?

And then there’s your relationship with Zuma, which you attempt to downplay now that the disgraced former president is persona non grata.

After all, you point out, in the same interview that you’ve never disguised the fact that “I’m very well and positively disposed towards the president of the republic”.

You go on to say that: “I’ve never disguised the fact that I’ve been a long-term friend of his. I think it’s public record that leading up to Polokwane I worked very hard for him, especially in the area of business.”

Was the reestablishing of a breakaway BBC about continuing your work for him in the area of business?

I’m equally battling to understand why BBC was so opposed to the Fica Amendment Bill, a piece of legislation that was intended to align South Africa with its international obligations in the fight against money laundering and international racketeering.

Where you are quick to point out that you rejected a donation to the BBC from the Guptas, you do not tell us who in your leadership was a recipient of their largesse and partnered them in business.

Why does it upset you so much that I demand that these be exposed?

Is it such a great coincidence therefore that in the dying days of the state capture project you saw your mission as one of waging war against the ministers targeted by Zuma and sought to embarrass them in public ... which eventually led to Busa excluding you from your representation in Nedlac?

I could go on and on, Sandile – but there are bigger issues at stake. The tasks before us are formidable and require ethical leadership from all social partners if we are to reset our country’s socioeconomic future.

In that spirit, I appreciate the fact that the Black Business Council has taken to heart the concerns I expressed in my open letter to you. I have to congratulate the BBC for a successful business summit, which had some positive outcomes. For example, its public commitment to ethical leadership, standing up against corruption and fighting state capture. These, among the many decisions you may have taken at the summit, are particularly important in light of the socioeconomic challenges we face as a nation.

But I doubt we can move forward with the urgent agenda for black business without addressing these issues of ethical leadership head on. And so I restate the request I made in my previous letter that an appropriate forum be found to deliberate on these issues in order to allow us to clean the slate and allow the emergence of a credible BBC.

We must all work together to navigate our way out of this economic and governance pickle, a precondition for attracting foreign direct investment to lift our growth rate and dent unemployment, which is rampant among black youth.

There is no denying that South Africa is confronted with significant economic and social challenges that continue to affect the financial well-being of many households and the achievement of inclusive economic growth. You’d be aware that our economy grew by just 0.8% last year, well below the roughly 5% that is needed to absorb some of our 9 million unemployed compatriots.

However, for us to be in step, we have to be part of what President Cyril Ramaphosa has dubbed a “cathartic moment” for our country. We all have to seize this moment. We have to come clean and hold each other accountable.

The challenge that must be met, Sandile, is to continue to pursue the economic and political conditions that will spread the wealth throughout the population and provide an example for the rest of Africa and the world.

It is my wish that you and I can walk side by side, along with other social partners, to ensure sustainable and inclusive growth for our country.

However, along with government entities, we must also be part of the current “cathartic moment” to establish a sound ethical footing for our country’s inclusive economic development.

That means owning up to historical mistakes that have been made, rather than trying to rewrite one’s personal history.

Yours sincerely

Sipho M Pityana

Writing in his personal capacity

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