Jacob Zuma on Black Economic Empowerment

Speech by ANC president to Confederation of Black Business Organisations, Sandton, March 10 2009


President of the CBBO, Jimmy Manyi,
President of the Black Information Technology Forum and Vice President of CBBO, Mthunzi Mdwaba,
President of Association of Black Accountants of South Africa and Vice President of CBBO, Tsakani Matshazi, 
President of the Black Lawyers Association and Vice President of CBBO, Andiswa Ndoni
President of BBC-BE and Vice President CBBO, Bafana Ndendwa,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening to you all.

Thank you for the privilege you have afforded us, to meet with the CBBO which represents more than eight black business and professional organisations.

This organisation will no doubt be a critical player in the socio-economic transformation of our country.

The recent formation of this organisation provides a united voice with which we can interact to discuss matters that are in the national interest.

We had a fruitful meeting with black business and professionals in December when we came to explain our election Manifesto processes.

We thank you for the contributions that you made as an important sector of our society.

We did everything possible to address in the Manifesto the issues that were raised. What would be left out would be practical issues, which would be dealt with as we implement our Programme of Action after the elections.

Our Manifesto aims to mobilise all our people and all our resources to push forward efforts against unemployment, poverty, inequality and marginalisation of the rural poor - the major challenges facing our country. 

At the same time, it reminds us that transformation is not complete in our country.

The recent formation of the CBBO is a reminder that we must work harder still to achieve equality and inclusivity in all aspects of our life, especially in the social and economic arenas.

We know that many may want to know the relevance of establishing an exclusively black federation in a non-racial democracy.

We understand the reasons perfectly as the ANC. Since 1912, the ANC has always been focused on change and transformation.

We see the CBBO as a key vehicle that will enable us to easily engage the black professional and business sector as one united entity to quickly take forward the socio-economic transformation processes in our country.

ANC government policies such as black economic empowerment and affirmative action have contributed to the growth of South Africa's black middle class by 2.6 million in 2007 and small business support has been streamlined and expanded. We want to see further growth in this sector.

When we met in December you were keen to confirm our position on Affirmative Action. The ANC remains firmly committed to Affirmative Action as a policy.

At the heart of the ANC's agenda is the total transformation of our country, into a truly non-racial and non-sexist society.

We want to create a society that has equal opportunities for all our people be it at political, social, cultural or economic spheres.

Affirmative action is one of the key tools of achieving this objective. It is therefore unthinkable that we can abandon affirmative action as a policy while we have not achieved the objective of transforming our society completely.

Affirmative Action is also critical in dealing with the historical past of inequality, injustice and racial based discrimination. If we are serious about reconciliation and reconstruction of our country we need to pass through this phase.

We cannot move ahead and rebuild our country without passing through this phase.

The reality in South Africa is that Apartheid systematically and purposefully restricted the majority of South Africans from meaningful participation in the economy.

The assets of millions of people were directly and indirectly destroyed and access to skills and to self-employment was racially restricted. The accumulation process under Apartheid confined the creation of wealth to a racial minority and imposed underdevelopment on black communities.

The result is an economic structure that today, in essence, still excludes the vast majority of South Africans. It is crucial to understand the magnitude of what took place in our past in order to understand why we need to act together as a nation to bring about an economic transformation in the interest of all.

The first fifteen years of our democracy have proven that while we had good intentions on implementing Affirmative Action, there was always a challenge when it came to its implementation.

There were many obstacles that were put in place towards implementing an effective affirmative action policy.

In short, this is one policy that has been frustrated every step of the way, by those who were opposed to our transformation agenda.

We wish to emphasise that the ANC is committed to ensuring the continued implementation of our affirmative action as well as the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) programmes.

We are convinced that the material conditions that necessitated the implementation of these programmes in the first place have not been adequately addressed.

The overwhelming majority of our Black population still lags behind in terms of:

  • Ownership of productive assets;
  • Access to capital and financial resources;
  • Access to quality education;
  • Overall levels of income and wealth.

Whereas the affirmative action and BBBEE programmes have succeeded in increasing the black middle class substantially, we are not convinced that it has succeeded in addressing the structural economic and social inequalities in our society.

The ANC has long been saying that BBBEE should benefit broader sections of our society, which was historically disadvantaged. We have said that in its current implementation BBBEE has benefited the few and has not been broad based enough. We believe that this must be addressed going forward.

When we talk about a review of BBBEE, such a review should concern itself about how effective we are in applying this policy, how we can strengthen it so that it can better deliver for our the majority and thus become broad based.

We must also agree that there should be more and better communication about the current elements of the BBBEE.

We need to identify where the current bottlenecks are in implementation, and implement BBBEE in such a manner that it becomes genuinely broad-based and promotes the ownership and control of productive assets by black people, women and youth.

The ANC has been on record for a long time to say that government procurement opportunities should be actively used to promote the economic development of our people.

As a priority we will have to harmonise all government procurement policies and ensure that they are aligned with the Department of Trade and Industry BBBEE Act and the Codes of Good Practice.

We have actively championed programmes such as the local supplier development programme (and especially the Black Business Supplier Development Programme). These provide companies with access to business development services that assist them to improve their core competencies upgrade managerial capabilities and restructure their processes to become more competitive.

We want to ensure efficient implementation of such policies.

We also want to ensure that the ANC government does not issue tenders and business without ensuring that companies qualify and comply with BBBEE Codes of Good Practice. It is not acceptable that government officials who are empowered to deal with such matters only concern themselves with price only at the expense of equity.

We will also need to improve communication channels between black business and government.  In this way we can quickly resolve issues where government departments flout policies and do not follow correct procedures.

We will be in a position to intervene timeously and develop strategies to deal with challenges that may emanate from time to time.

We are also aware of the instances where government has not paid SMME's within the appropriate time and that this has led to some of these SMME's closing down.

It is unacceptable for our government to be seen to be contributing to the demise of black businesses through not timeously paying for services rendered. This has to stop.

We have also noted concerns by the black construction industry that they do not access government business. Our government will look into this matter to ensure that the implementation of our policies does not frustrate black contractors.

We intend to pay more attention to issues of monitoring and evaluation of performance of government departments, through the Planning Commission that we intend to establish in The Presidency.

This will mean that when the implementation of certain policies are being frustrated by government departments; we will be in a position to intervene timeously.

An important issue for us is also to ensure gender equity in all our programmes. This is evident in the numbers of women in our parliamentary lists, and will be reflected in the executive as well. We trust that the private sector will follow suit and begin to actively affirm and empower women for the good of our country.

Compatriots, South Africa belongs to all its citizens, and they need to understand where we are coming from and where we are going with our policies.

That is why we will also maintain open communication channels with organisations such as the Solidarity trade union, which does not share our views on Affirmative Action and other policies.

I must also add that we expect members of CBBO to be involved in national service. For example, we need your skills in the public service to improve service delivery.

We urge black professionals to return to the public service and help us improve the quality of life of our people. You can do it at least for a few years and then go and make money in the private sector later!

National service also includes being part of the public discourse on transformation issues.

Let us not leave the debate to people who appear to be frustrated by the progress that our country has been making since 1994. Communication is a powerful tool. Let us use it effectively.

Working together, we can do more to build a better life for all.

We look forward to very active and fruitful ongoing interaction with the CBBO in the interests of our country.

I thank you.

Statement issued by the African National Congress March 10 2009

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