As Finweek speculated last week, Business Unity South Africa (Busa) has unveiled Jabu Mabuza as its new president. A talented leader and one of the pioneers of black business, Mabuza is a breath of fresh air within the troubled business lobby group. Busa couldn’t have wished for a better leader.
No doubt he has a daunting task ahead of him. Long before the walk away of black businesses, Busa had already started losing its significance – often appearing as a reactionary organisation to what Government says instead of initiating dialogue on the pressing socio-economic issues. When it participated in public discussions, its comments have often been vague and non-committal.
No other options
It’s equally failed to be the “one business voice” its founders envisaged or to forge unity between historically black and white organisations. At a press briefing yesterday, Mabuza acknowledged that black organisations left Busa because it had become “uninhabitable”. Its efficiency at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) is also questionable.
It has no option but to transform. It’s encouraging that it’s already put the wheels in motion to re-engineer itself. South Africa needs a strong and united business voice, especially in light of the radical propositions the allies of the ruling party have put up for discussion on economic transformation. As an apex business organisation, Busa has a cardinal role to shape the discussions around these issues. It’s yet to propose an alternative to the nationalisation plea.
Its programmes have somewhat been elusive. I’m yet to see its practical programmes aimed at helping with the development of SMEs. So far Busa has only been good in signing accords, without monitoring their implementation.
Tamed the taxis
Mabuza could help steer the organisation in the right direction. His experience in organising and formalising a chaotic and violent taxi industry will come in handy. He’s also a reputable black entrepreneur who may be able to restore the fractured relations between Busa and the Black Business Council (BBC).
But his success in addressing the issues that drove away black businesses at Busa will largely hinge on the generosity or willingness of the most powerful members of the organisation: the big corporates and Business Leadership SA, who control the means of production in this country. They hold the key to opening up opportunities for small black-owned and often informal firms.
It’s a tough call. But Mabuza seems bold and courageous. We’ll be watching him. He has a track record to protect.
Until next time… Cheers!