BUSA cuts ties with Black Business Council over junk status conflict

Cape Town – Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) has ended its Nedlac cooperation with the Black Business Council (BBC) over a difference of opinion regarding the effects of South Africa’s ratings downgrade.

“The decision to terminate the participation of the BBC through BUSA in Nedlac (National Economic Development and Labour Council) was taken unanimously by the BUSA board,” the organisation, led by Telkom chairperson Jabu Mabuza, said in a statement on Monday.

“It was informed by recent developments at Nedlac where it became apparent that BBC and BUSA were not aligned in relation to key issues facing the economy,” it said.

“Such issues included the impact of the downgrade and on matters of monetary policy, as well as the most appropriate way to address these issues.”

Mabuza was a strong supporter of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, while the BBC was seen as constantly attacking the former minister. Gordhan accused them of trying to “capture” the Treasury after his Budget speech in 2017.

The BBC said the termination of the cooperation occurred after Mabuza kicked them out of a Nedlac infrastructure committee meeting.

“The BBC will continue participating in Nedlac as an independent voice of black business and we believe this will provide a great opportunity for BBC to advocate the aspirations of our people,” BBC president Danisa Baloyi said in a statement.  

“We have declared 2017 the year of radical economic transformation and on platforms such as Nedlac, we will continue to advocate a less apologetic approach to economic redress.”
The BBC said this was the end of “23 years of partnership and dialogue between white and black business” at Nedlac.

The BBC merged with Business South Africa (seen as white business) in 2003 to form BUSA. It then split in 2012 following the launch of the BBC. That breakaway did not end their cooperation – until now.

The relationship between the BBC and BUSA likely strained following President Jacob Zuma's Cabinet reshuffle in March, which saw Gordhan removed as finance minister.

The issue of “radical economic transformation” as opposed to “inclusive growth” now lies at the heart of the battle of ideas, with critics concerned that the former is a populist term used by a patronage network to take over key institutions like Treasury for the benefit of the political elite.

However, the issue of BUSA representing white business interests has been a thorn in the organisation’s side since the inception of the BBC.

When the BBC was relaunched five years ago, BUSA said that it “remains incorrect and unfortunate that allegations are made that BUSA represents white business interests and that, by implication, it is riding roughshod over black business interests”.

BBC secretary general George Sebulela said on Monday that the “closing doors approach by BUSA is direct contrary of the BBC open door policy”.

“White business cannot keep the social dialogue alive alone. You need the BBC, a different organisation fighting for the aspiration of Black people and white business don't seem to realise this fact. They are finding it very difficult to work with Black people,” said Sebulela.

BUSA said it is the recognised voice at Nedlac for business - representing businesses across all sectors, sizes and formats in the economy.
“The BUSA board formally advised the BBC on 11 May 2017 of the termination of cooperation in Nedlac,” they said. “The decision follows the lapse of the 2012 to 2015 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between BUSA and the BBC.

“The MoU provided the cooperative framework for promoting the interests of business in Nedlac, which previously enabled the BBC representatives to participate in Nedlac proceedings through the BUSA seat.
“Regrettably, notwithstanding numerous efforts, the two parties were unable to reach an agreement on the terms of a new framework for participation.
“Therefore, the BBC will no longer be represented through BUSA at Nedlac. This does not prevent the BBC from seeking their own seat at Nedlac in line with the Nedlac Act and Constitution.
“As the representative voice of all business, BUSA remains committed to working with all organised business formations and stakeholders across the broader spectrum of society, including the BBC, within the spirit of co-operation, accountability, collaboration and mutual respect,” BUSA said.

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