The new executive heads of Business Unity South Africa were unveiled on Tuesday, just half an hour after the organisation’s annual general meeting ended.
Mabuza’s leadership is very opportune for Busa, which is currently facing something of an identity crisis after a number of black business organisations split off to form the Black Business Council (BBC), saying that Busa was not about the interests of black business. If the appointment of the new president (he was unopposed) was an answer to that, it could not have been a more emphatic one.
Mabuza is one of those people whose list of directorships and board positions is seriously long. His beginnings were very humble – he started off as a taxi driver, and then owned a few taxis of his own. He was one of the founders of the South African Black Taxi Association and was involved in the early days of the Foundation for African Business and Consumer Services.
The SAB then drafted Mabuza in its earliest black economic empowerment deals, opening up the avenue for him to serve on a wide range of boards across the economy. He then got a foothold into the gambling and entertainment world – first by being on the board of Southern Sun and then being one of the creators of the Tsogo Sun group. He served as its CEO for five years, and when he left that position last year, the holdings company was worth more than R20-billion.
However illustrious Mabuza’s career is, he has given up on the idea of ever returning BBC into the Busa fold. “We are about the unity of business,” he said at the organisation’s headquarters in Sandton. “Our ambition is to be the one voice of business, but not necessarily the only one. We are very hopeful that there will come a time when business, even if not talking from the same room, can say the same things. We’ve been working on the representation of business issues at (the National Economic Development and Labour Council) – but it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day who raises those issues.”
He continued: “I am under no illusions that the issues that caused the formation of the Black Business Council must be addressed by Busa. We are willing and able to continue talking to the BBC.”
The relationship between Busa and the BBC is warmer than it was when the latter was re-formed in September last year, the new president said.
The administrative heads of the organisation, CEO Nomaxabiso Majokweni and deputy CEO Raymond Parsons still remain.
Parsons and Madumise said Busa would need to focus far more strongly on convincing the government that business plays the most crucial role in creating jobs. The organisation would continue to produce research that will hopefully convince the government to make the regulatory environment more business-friendly.
Parsons said perhaps Busa needed to come up with business targets to go along with the employment targets set out in the government’s New Growth Path. He said one idea could be to create one million small and medium enterprises within 10 years, with hopes that each one could employ about five people. If this could be done, then it would be in line with the government’s own plans to create five million new jobs.
Madumise said she hoped that government would do away with unnecessary red tape in order to make it easier to start businesses.
The BBC is going to be a very useful ally to Busa in this cause. The BBC’s leaders – men like Patrice Motsepe – have shown to be of a business rather than a political bent like the Black Management Forum. The BBC and Busa cannot afford to play politics. The two organisations are in a titanic battle for the soul of the African National Congress.
On one front, organised labour is pushing for more and more restrictive legislation. The nationalisers and tenderpreneurs are also tugging away at the heart of the party. Business has its turf to protect and advances to make. It accomplished this once before. It convinced the ANC not to nationalise everything in sight in the 90s but to adopt an economic growth policy. They now need to turn that success into successful lobbying on the labour front. Their argument is a wildly unpopular one within the ANC, but they can’t afford to shut up about it.
As Mabuza plaintively put it: “The recognition that it is business that creates jobs is sadly missing.”
He said: “Our main goal is simple – economic growth. I know of many economies that grow without creating jobs. But there is no economy that creates jobs without growing.” DM
Photo: Chairwoman Brenda Madumise, President Jabu Mabuza, CEO Nomaxabiso Majokweni, deputy CEO Raymond Parsons. DAILY MAVERICK/Sipho Hlongwane
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