We stand on the shoulders of giants - Lindiwe Zulu

Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu delivering the keynote address at the African Women Chartered Accountants conference in Sandton. (Lameez Omarjee)
Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu delivering the keynote address at the African Women Chartered Accountants conference in Sandton. (Lameez Omarjee)

Johannesburg – South African women must understand they stand on the shoulders of the women of 1956 who marched to the Union Buildings, said Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu.

Zulu delivered the keynote address at the African Women Chartered Accountants (AWCA) conference in Sandton on Tuesday, which focused on women in business, ethical leadership and corporate governance.

“As black women we must realise we wouldn’t have been sitting here. We would have had to come and clean this place,” said Zulu. As the women of 1956 cleared the way to prepare the ground for the younger generation, women of this generation should do the same for those to come, she explained. “Our struggle is not about to end today.”

Zulu said women face challenges which differ from those of men. They have responsibilities associated with womanhood, such as raising families and running households, in addition to doing their jobs. “The problem is a continuous and consistent patriarchal approach to women,” she said.

Most women in the corporate space are misjudged for not having the same level of capabilities as their male counterparts, explained Zulu. Women need to be firm about the things they want to do. “We need to change this; no one else will change it except us,” she said.

Women should not treat their own sons and daughters differently, as this perpetuates inequality and some girls will feel that they are not capable of certain tasks, explained Zulu.

Taking on monopolies

Another issue women have to deal with is money. “You are competing with monopoly. Monopoly wants to swallow everything up for themselves,” said Zulu. Some people have been in industry for generations, with over 40 years of experience. They had a chance to fail and learn from their mistakes.

In a young democracy, the majority of the black population has only been given opportunities to participate in the economy over the past 22 years. “We need to give ourselves the opportunities, even if it means failing. Through failing will we be able to achieve,” said Zulu.

“As minister of small business development I am seeing more how money is going above our heads as black people,” said Zulu. About R1bn is spent a day in construction, but "other people are making this money, going above our heads", she added. However, even if money is allocated to “black hands”, they need to be ready to deliver. Business women need to find credible partners which are older and bigger and can offer support.  

Zulu said as minister she has had to kick doors open, but that she can’t do so when no one is coming from behind to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead. “Can I kick doors and have you standing behind me so that when the doors open, you will be there to fill the space?” she asked.

Zulu concluded her address by explaining that the youth of ’76 left a legacy of a liberated South Africa, credible institutions and stable governance. She challenged the current generation to do the same. “You must find your ’76. It can’t be destruction and moaning… Yours should be: where is the money? We want the money.”

* August is Women's Month and Fin24, in collaboration with the Sanlam Enterprise Supplier Development Programme, invites you to help us celebrate and showcase SA's extraordinary women in business.

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