Speaking at the ANC’s Ekurhuleni region this past Saturday, President of Black Business Council, Danisa Baloyi, presented this speech on radical economic transformation
- Radical Economic Transformation, means exactly that, a move from the perceived norm, the acceptable, to the uncomfortable, decisive change in the way we do things, and the will to change what we know has not worked largely for our people to policies that are implemented to ensure that our people get to the centre of our economy. We know that the private sector has largely been reluctant to move in this direction, we therefore remain with one lever, our government.
- Being radical means that we must experience a seismic shift in our economy, with an effective bias toward changing the lives of the majority of our people to ensure that they move from a beggar status of being spectators in a country where we are the majority, and in power for 22 years; yet the beneficiaries of apartheid have become richer while our people get pebbles of remnants that have fallen off the master’s table.
- Being radical is having the political will to change the way things are done. Being bold in our implementation of policies that our people have given a mandate to. Being able to look at the past, and the now and honestly assess if the current policies around our economy have really worked for our people. Truth be told, BEE has largely empowered our white compatriots. Let me drill it down, we set out as black people and put together positive policies, then we give them to government who then give it to white consultants and we end up with diluted versions of policies that were never our design, but they get implemented by our government as we watch from the sidelines in disbelief-disempowered. Case in point so I cement my argument; I was part of the BEE Commission that was chaired then by our current Deputy President. We spent months working on the document, beautiful, balanced as we gave and took. We handed in our recommendations to our then Minister for Trade and Industry who actually said at the launch, “Black man you are on your own”, and the response from our then Chairman was “yes we are on our own with our government”. However, what we handed in and what ended up enacted were 2 different things. I remember, the that I remarked, after the SONA that year “ that we asked for a Rolls Royce, and we got a Volksie”. It got me in trouble, but it WAS THE TRUTH. The end product moved from being Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) to White Empowerment (WEE) which remains until today!!. So then, why is our government not bold enough to take a stance that will ensure proper Black Economic Empowerment when it has all the levers at is disposal? It is possible, it can be done it needs guts. I will give an example, when I was Chairman of the Gauteng Provincial Tender Board, we were bold, we took the constitution and looked at the empowerment provisions, and we carved rules underpinned by the constitution, gave contracts to Black people and created millionaires. We had set asides, monitored and evaluated programmes! We ensured that change happened and we were recognised as the best performing Tender Board in the country and we helped those in the other provinces and SOC’s to tighten up, but you know what, then PPPFA was introduced, and even with our record, we were closed down! We were the first Tender Board to be removed and since then, our people have suffered and all the gains reversed!! Why? I ask myself. If it ain’t broke why change it? The dreadful PPPFA then found its space because we ignored when it was introduced until it bit us! When it was carved, can you believe that the person who put it together was helped by an Australian consultant! Even with our track record, we were never interviewed. We kicked and screamed, made presentations to the the then President, but we failed in trying to stop this lunacy of an Act that did not make mathematical sense if you really wanted to enable Black Business. Then the question is, whose interests is this PPPFA serving? 90/10,20/30, really. How can Blacks win this race that started in 1652? Why aren’t we bold enough, radical enough to chuck things out? Remember I said we ignored it and we were taken to court and we won all cases, because we had rules underpinned by Chapter 9 of our constitution, redress of past imbalances, and that procurement should be fair equitable and to ensure a bias towards those historically affected by apartheid. Why aren’t we using that? Why is it that we ignore practitioners who made it work? We largely ignore the skills of Black professionals, we do not believe in Black Excellence in our country. The private sector is bold and it empowers white professionals largely, why is our own government not doing the same? Law firms, Accounting firms that benefitted during apartheid and didn’t care a hoot about the plight of Black people are first on call for our government why? Have we ever cared to check how they treat Black professionals within those firms? Yet, they are richly empowered by us!!
- Inclusive Growth, for Black people is an elusive determination. Who are we talking about when we refer to inclusive growth, I know it is not Black Business that we have in mind because in 22 years we have been unable to create a meaningful pool of Black Businesses, and that should make us feel bad. We have not done right as far as that is concerned, my question is, when are we going to stand up and take a tough stance, a deliberate one that will ensure radical economic change. We have levers, The DTI has incentives, but I am yet to find a large pool of Black Business people who have benefitted from these incentives. They were not designed for us. I can speak with authority because I have been involved in organised Black Business since I came back from exile, and since we met with The ANC leadership. In Waiting in Mopani in 1993, where we outlined our proposal for economic inclusion for Black Business once we govern South Africa. It culminated with the Mopani Memorandum of Understanding which I consider to be a precursor to all the BEE laws. If you go back and check, the promises remain an elusive dream for Black people, it cannot be, if we are in charge we must take charge!! if we are not, I understand the big elephant in the room is , why is it that we are perceived to pander to white interests and disregard largely the interest of the Black majority as it stands now, my view is white capital determines how we rule, it cannot be. The ANC is in power because the majority of this country has given it the mandate to govern, why have we not used that mandate to ensure that inclusive growth bears meaning to their well being as well? It would be disengeneous to argue otherwise. The reality is for the mandate they have given, they have not received much in return their economic dividend remains deferred. We need to take stock, take charge, use the power vested in our government to create change, real economic tangible change otherwise the results of our lack of decisiveness will be too ghastly to contemplate. We cannot continue to dish out crumbs to our people. We as BlackBusiness were challenged by President Zuma when we launched, he asked as why there where no Black Industrialists, no Black media house and no Black Bank. We promised him that we would tackle all 3 starting with the project of creating Black Industrialists that has now been taken over by The DTI. However, one must lament the bureaucracy and slow pace of coming up with a bold programme, we are still planning years later, this is not for lack of good projects, but my personal view is that we are so ever reluctant to take a chance with Black Business, our government does not trust that we have the mettle to do it so we go through the washing machine a million times. Once we tried with the IDC and failed, then asked white business people to do it, I then got the money, see what I mean? This is after we had put such great levers for empowerment and Transformation during the time I was on the IDC Board in 1995-1998. I reiterate simply do not believe in Black Excellence. Until there is a mindset change, Black Business and Black Professionals are doomed. Cronyism, is another major problem. The perception is that you have to know someone to get an opportunity this is a major problem because the system as it stands now, allows for players who are referees too! During the time of The Tender Board, I used to say that you needed to Bribe all 16 of us to influence us. It minimised the risk, but we did away with the Tender Board. People are aggrieved. In conclusion, I want to reiterate that as Black Business, we are indeed on our own with our government. Until such time that we have created a meaningful pool of successful Black Business people and boldly return BEE to what it was intended and do away with WEE disguised on BEE, inclusive growth won’t happen. Radical Economic Empowerment can only happen when something “breaks” and we willingly get out of our comfort zone and put Black Business and Black Professionals first for a change. We simply need to have the will to once be Captured by Black people and their aspirations, otherwise we will remain Captured by established business and Black Business will not go anywhere slowly. Black people must wake up to the fact that they have power. When Banks or Financial institutions in their entirety say they won’t invest and sit on piles of cash, your money and my money is part of those trillions they refuse to invest. For rich white person, who put a million, there are millions who put a R1000, R 5000 or R 10 000 etc. These amounts total to a huge number, so we need to have a voice. The same applies to Ensurance companies. How many Black people have policies, but where is their money invested? The other thing is the issue of the monies coming from Pension Funds, PIC etc. These are tax payer’s monies that are invested in these Financial Institutions, asset mangers who now show government who is the custodian of these funds the middle finger. How can that be correct? However, key is our voice, we are not following our rights and demanding that our position be heard and recognised. We basically morgage our money and let other decide on what is done with it, whether it is an agenda we agreed with or not.
We need to use our power and use it decisively!
Dr Danisa E Baloyi