Richard Maponya would have had to battle the ANC too
In his tribute to Richard Maponya, the doyen of black business who died earlier this month, Cyril Ramaphosa said he "was of that rare breed of entrepreneurs who would not be held back or become disheartened by difficult operating conditions".
Mr Maponya was a rags-to-riches story. He overcame the challenges confronting all would-be entrepreneurs starting from scratch. But he had also to overcome all the obstacles that apartheid policy placed in his way. One of these, as he told me when I interviewed him in 1974 at his home in Soweto for the Financial Mail, was that he could not get a bank overdraft. This was because his house, whose value he put then at R100 000, was on leased land so could not be pledged as security. "Others get the right of land ownership, but South Africa's indigenous people are deprived of it," he said.
It was not until the 1980s that the National Party government agreed to allow black Africans to buy land and houses in the townships. Yet the clock may now be turned back. Mr Ramaphosa's party is planning to amend the Constitution and so pave the way for legislation giving the state powers to confiscate not only all the land in the country, but all the improvements on that land as well. In other words, nationalisation.
The proposed constitutional amendment and likely later nationalisation law have two main objectives. The first is to advance the socialist objectives of the national democratic revolution to which the African National Congress (ANC) has long been committed. The second is to increase the ANC's powers of patronage.
Moreover, while Mr Ramaphosa hailed Mr Maponya's life "as a testament to resilience, determination, and the power of vision...to see black business grow", the African National Congress (ANC) has steadily made it more and more difficult for all kinds of businesses even to get started, let alone to grow. Testimony to this is South Africa's dramatic decline on the World Bank's ease-of-doing-business index.