WSM got the wrong end of the stick – BEE Novation

Company says Dumisani Mpafa was not expressing his own opinion, but passing on the opinion of others

BEE Novation Statement on Misquoted Webinar Guest, Dumisani Mpafa

BEE Novation notes the Politicsweb article titled, “Burning down the house to get rid of the white mice” by William Saunderson-Meyer, published May 22nd. It concerns the speech given at our webinar the previous day (“Is B-BBEE Relevant During COVID-19?”) by Mr. Dumisani Mpafa, CEO of B-BBBEE auditor, BEEVER Agency.

Mr. Mafa was invited to speak briefly about the work being done by the industry body Association of B-BBEE Professionals in the transformation landscape during the pandemic. Unless we missed something — and the recording does buffer at points — where he is said to have addressed audiences as “comrades”, he said colleagues.

Where Saunderson-Meyer quotes Mpafa saying, “We are dealing with a solid economic architecture, so strong, unless something drastic happens, you can’t sabotage it. You’ve got to bring it to its knees and start afresh,” Saunderson-Meyer omits Mpafa’s words, “…it simply reproduces racial inequality and of course there are voices that would argue...” from the middle of that quote.

The part about bringing the economy to its knees and starting afresh isn’t Mpafa’s own opinion, but an opinion he’s rightly disturbed to have heard from others. Mr. Mpafa’s words could have been done more justice to had quote-within-quotes punctuation been used for clarity. What’s been written, then, doesn’t merely alter the meaning of Mpafa’s words: it reverses it.

The title of Saunderson-Meyer’s article (which could have been the work of a sub-editor) could lead to the retaliatory provocation of race-based violence from one side of society because it imputes its intent to members of the other.

As BEE Novation, we kindly urge Saunderson-Meyer and Politicsweb to quickly attend to this unfortunate situation.

Statement issued by BEE Novation, 29 May 2020

William Saunderson-Meyer replies:

I have spent a tedious couple of hours listening repeatedly to the YouTube video. BEE Novation is correct, I did mishear Mr Mphafa. He did say colleagues, not comrades. For that I apologise. 

I do not, however, think that I have in any way distorted Mr Mphafa’s statements or drawn unsubstantiated conclusions from what he said. The rhetorical device of using the the third person — “people say”, “it is thought”, “one can argue” — does not conceal Mr Mphafa bizarre sympathy for a “drastic” solution to economic inequality: embracing destruction and starting again. 

Here are his exact words, with any indistinct bits contained in brackets. Readers can decided for themselves:

We’ve been trying but we have not been able to, you know, achieve sustainable progress in terms of transformation. And my view is that this is because we are dealing with a solid economic architecture that is so strong that unless something drastic happens it simply [perpetuates?] racial inequality. And of course there are voices that argue that the architecture of this South African economy is so strong and structural that you can’t sabotage from it. You have to bring it to its knees and rebuild it afresh if you want to achieve transformation. And, well, it is not a social [campaign?] that has brought it to its knees, strangely, it’s the coronavirus and so one can argue that covid has gifted the country with an opportunity to build a new economy, an economy with explicit, you like, defined, you like, new economic [edifice?] that does not exist in the economy we have in this country.

Which I rendered: 

Mphafa said that the coronavirus was a “gifted chance”, since black empowerment had so far disappointed. “We are dealing with a solid economic architecture, so strong, unless something drastic happens, you can’t sabotage it. You’ve got to bring it to its knees and start afresh.” 

In the ruins of the old, SA will have a chance to start all over “to build a new economy”. Very stirring, revolutionary stuff, albeit from a leader of a managerial forum.

William Saunderson-Meyer