Budget 2021

Minister talks down black business lobby

Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan (Netwerk24)
Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan (Netwerk24)

*This article was updated on February 28 2017. The statement read at the Nedlac meeting was wrongly attributed to Zitha Dube, the acting CEO of the BBC, who brought this to our attention. We apologise for any harm and inconvenience caused. 

During a heated exchange at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) in Johannesburg on Friday, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan accused the Black Business Council (BBC) of trying to “capture” National Treasury, according to sources who wish to remain anonymous.

The minister traditionally goes to Nedlac two days after the budget speech so that constituencies – business, labour and the community – can be given a chance to provide feedback.

Business is represented by Business Unity SA and the BBC.

A BBC executive read a statement that attacked the budget speech as consisting of “platitudes about transformation”.

According to this statement, Gordhan had not once mentioned the term “radical economic transformation”.

According to a source who attended the meeting, Gordhan replied by reading a list of pages from his speech on which the term “radical economic transformation”, or a permutation of it, does appear. There were five.

“You obviously didn’t read the speech,” Gordhan retorted, according to the source.

Gordhan then said people needed to be honest about their political intentions.

“The public is very aware of what is going on. They know your agenda is to destroy Treasury ... to capture Treasury, but the public knows what is right and wrong.”

Another person at the meeting told City Press that Gordhan accused the BBC of “representing a single family” – an apparent reference to the Guptas.

Mzwanele Manyi, head of policy at the BBC, then asked Gordhan to retract this statement, which he refused to do, said the second source.

Manyi confirmed by SMS that the minister had made the statement about the BBC representing “a family”, and also that he made the “capture” remark in an “innuendo-type articulation”.

The BBC invited the media to attend a press conference at Nedlac after the meeting, however, it did not inform Nedlac of this and was refused permission to use the venue.

Recently appointed director of Nedlac, Madoda Vilakazi, was seen telling BBC delegates that the decision was final.

The BBC statement that attacked the budget speech in the Nedlac meeting listed several complaints.

The budget speech had “no alignment with the state of the nation address”, reads the statement.

“There was no mention of the Black Industrialist Programme, which is one of the major policy instruments to achieve radical economic transformation,” it said.

“Despite fearmongering by the ratings agencies, the BBC does not believe that South Africa has a debt problem. South Africa has a net loan debt of 45.5% of gross domestic product. This is relatively low by international standards.”

The BBC accused Treasury of “siding with the financial sector to force through a [BEE] charter that endorsed the principle of 'once empowered, always empowered'."

Other points of criticism included a failure to amend the “draconian Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act” to allow for “set-asides” – contracts only available to black businesses.

“White monopoly capital will continue to be the main beneficiaries.”

Recently, a limited form of set-asides have been introduced, covering 30% of large contracts that need to be subcontracted to black and/or small companies.

The BBC said that this should be 51% and that small, white-owned companies need to be specifically excluded.

Another demand was that black businesses be allowed “to participate in the restructuring of the Post Office and South African Airways, and the licensing of new financial institutions”.

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