Xolani Qubeka, CEO of the Black Business Council, at a symposium on cartel collusion blamed the practice of cartels in South Africa on white men. “Consumers in South Africa” he said “cannot continue to be abused by highly educated white male executives in dark suits who lock themselves in dark rooms plotting how they can maximise their wealth through self-serving fraudulent schemes against the entire nation”.
It is strange and confusing that his racist rant with its bigotry and muddled thinking should also refer to the white male executives as being “highly educated” and that they wear “dark suits” How is it that being well educated or smartly dressed should be cause for accusation?
Are these signs of the despised elitism supposedly rejected by the egalitarian rank and file of the ANC? One says “supposedly” because the moment there are free range credit cards for government functionaries and access to top hotels and motor dealerships, all the anti-capitalist anger dissipates. Ask Finance Minister Gordhan.
While the Black Business Council must be encouraged to speak out against cartels and any form of illegal collusion it is disgraceful that their CEO should accuse white men specifically of being guilty, and that he should get away with it. Nowhere was there any apology or retraction or even a disapproving comment from any of its members.
While the very existence of a business council devoted entirely to the affairs of one race group is patently unconstitutional, that it should be used as a platform to malign any other race group is unforgiveable. In a country which professes to be beyond that kind of thing by now, how can Qubeka’s comments be defended? And if we still have a Black Business Women’s Association and a Black Management Forum in addition to several other specifically black interest groups are we not setting ourselves up for this kind of confused and paranoid racism?
Any group whose purpose it is to promote a particular cause will inevitably define itself by opposing and fighting to kill off its opposite. Communists hate capitalists. Pro-life champions fight the pro-choice group, and so on. It is not surprising then that a black-anything must validate and differentiate itself by coming out against some real or imagined white cause.
Now that we live in a hard-won democratic society where there is a vast black majority and where tough BEE regulations continue to make great strides building a privileged class of black capitalists do we still need a black business council? Black people may argue that transformation is not happening fast enough but they will admit that the desire to make it work and the legislation to entrench it are firmly in place.
We spend our lives these days forever on the thin ice of political correctness and a commitment to avoid any action that may be interpreted as racist. We all know what the sensitivities are and how one is to respect the delicate elements of our racially diverse society. And yet the slightest murmur or a comment that could possibly be interpreted as racist, no matter how oblique, is pounced on and milked for every possible angle of vengeance.
Look at the outburst from the staff of City Press Editor Ferial Haffajee who was accused of being racist because she did not appoint a senior black news editor to give a more accurate “black point of view”. Haffajee has impeccable credentials as an impartial editor with the highest standards of journalistic professionalism. Her question in a subsequent tweet was ‘I don’t tolerate white racists, so what makes black racists any different?”
Are we saying that white racists are the villains but black racists are OK?
ANC General Secretary Gwede Mantashe lashes out at Sprinboks coach Heyneke Meyer for not picking enough black players. Any possible derogatory remark on the football field becomes a legal issue and an accusation of “hate speech”
But it’s OK for president Zuma to sing at the 2012 ANC Conference “Dubula iBhunu” (Kill the Boer) from the traditional song “Ayesaha Amagwala”
And it’s also OK for Julius Malema to use his crude and blatantly racist banners to insult and denigrate “the whites”. At the launch of his Economic Freedom Fighters party one banner read “the honeymoon is over for whites” and another “white people must learn to share”. Does he think only black people know how to share?
Nothing better can be expected of Malema, but much better is expected of serious business people and leaders like Qubeka, who are role models for the upcoming generation of aspiring business managers.
Imagine for a moment that the white minority group, who may now feel excluded from jobs in the public sector and have reduced opportunities in private companies which are trying to meet their BEE quotas, start a White Business Council. Members may be people who see their children excluded from opportunities at universities and who see black people having unfair advantage somewhat beyond the ‘levelling of the playing field’. And then imagine their spokesman accusing black people as a whole of being dishonest or corrupt. What would happen? Try to imagine it. There would be a national outrage
Continuing to divide black or white causes into separate interest groups sounds like a worrying echo of the separate development and Bantustan-thinking that we ditched long ago. So why do we still hang on to these provocative and redundant organizations? DM
Johann Redelinghuys is a partner at Heidrick & Struggles the international leadership consulting business, which bought the firm Redelinghuys & Partners of which he was the founder. He has been deeply involved in career management and executive search all his life. He is the chairman of the South African company and now heads up its board practice working with chairmen and CEOs focussed on CEO succession, strategic leadership review and board evaluation.
"Take a chance, won't you? Knock down the fences which divide. Tear apart the walls that imprison you. Reach out. Freedom lies just on the other side." ~ Thurgood Marshall