Remarks by President Jacob Zuma at the Black Business Tribute Dinner, honouring black business pioneers who thrived in business during the difficult apartheid era, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg

Sanibonani! Dumelang

Let me begin by expressing my sincere appreciation and gratitude for this opportunity to address this tribute dinner in honour of the pioneers of black economic emancipation.

This is a historic occasion indeed. We are thus united in celebrating leaders who triumphed against incredible odds. It was not easy at all to run businesses in the early 1960’s and 1970’s, during a difficult period of repression.

Black business people faced restrictive laws and policies that deliberately suppressed black business in the urban areas. Black businesspeople could not set up business in towns but were limited to Black townships. This was when the famous township corner shops or general dealers came to being, and they became an important feature of our lives.

It was also extremely difficult, under the homeland system, to unite black business under one umbrella as it divided Black South Africans according to their ethnic groups, classifying those residing in homelands as non-South Africans.

Also during this time, the heavy hand of apartheid was visible as many leaders of our Liberation Movement were either in jail, exile, or in prison.

Despite all this, many black entrepreneurs worked hard and became household names and an inspiration to all.

We are therefore much pleased that today we are able to recognise these shining stars and beacons of hope against all odds during apartheid. We are also very proud that the ruling African National Congress played a historical and significant role in laying the foundation for Black economic emancipation to take root.

In fact we all remember how the Tambo/Mandela firm assisted Mr Richard Maponya when he suffered repressive apartheid laws affecting his business.

As we honour these pioneers tonight, we also acknowledge the significant role played by organisations such as NAFCOC, the Black Management Forum, FABCOS, African Hawkers and Informal Business and others in laying the foundation for the post-apartheid Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) policy of government today.

These organisations soldiered on, and demonstrated their determination never to give up the fight against racial exclusion and economic injustice over these years.

We are pleased that today many black business owners have become business icons of our nation and continue to inspire young entrepreneurs. You have demonstrated that it is possible to succeed, especially now, in a free and democratic South Africa, with a government that has as its mission, the emancipation of black people from economic bondage.

Black entrepreneurs are succeeding in various sectors of our economy, including mining, information communication technologies, agriculture, construction and manufacturing.

However, the struggle to de-racialise the ownership and control of the economy and ensure the meaningful participation of the black majority continues. We have not yet reached our destination, that is true economic emancipation.

Our collective task is to fast-track economic transformation so that black business can be part of the mainstream, and not be regarded as an alternative sector of the economy.

In this regard, government continues to implement its policies aimed at the radical transformation of the economic landscape, including changing the patterns of ownership of the economy.

These include the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment laws, aimed at ensuring the transformation of our economy as well as ensuring that black people participate meaningfully in the mainstream of the economy.

We regard our Black Economic Empowerment legislation including legislation aimed at opening up state procurement to black entrepreneurs and small business, as a critical component of our national effort to banish poverty, joblessness and inequality.

We must emphasize that the uniqueness of the B-BBEE policy is that its successful implementation requires both the public and the private sectors to institutionalize and implement it with utmost vigour.

In addition, I must reiterate that in order for the B-BBEE policy to succeed in the public sector, government must use its procurement muscle to sustain and grow black businesses.

This is because annually, through the public sector procurement system, government spends in the region of 500 billion rand on goods and services and construction works alone.

In this regard, the buying power of the state is a powerful economic transformation tool. It can and must be used to advance black economic empowerment.

In the past five years, as part of advancing B-BBEE procurement, government amended the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act or the PPPFA Regulations to provide for BEE preference points.

As we have now realised, this amendment has not worked or led to the desired impact. Instead, we have now found that the preference points system prescribed in the PPPFA is rigid and is not responsive to government objectives.

Due to these shortcomings, the preferential procurement regulations have failed to substantially re-shape the skewed ownership and control of the South African economy. We would like to reiterate that Government is now determined to ultimately repeal the PPPFA and its associated regulations and introduce a more flexible preferential procurement framework that is responsive to government objectives.

In this regard, the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act will be repealed by the Public Procurement Act. The Public Procurement Bill is now going through the different government stakeholder engagement processes before it is tabled in Parliament. This is targeted for early 2017.

In the interim, government is working on regulations that will improve the PPPFA to make them more responsive to the economic transformation imperatives. One of the key deliverables will be the 30 percent set asides for small businesses, which will be compulsory for all big contracts.

We urge you to engage the National Treasury and the Small Business Development Department to ensure that the views of black business are taken into account into the drafting of the new procurement bill and in amending the procurement regulations.

Government has also introduced the new Black Industrialist (BI) programme. We introduced this programme following discussions with the Black Business Council, where we agreed that it is not sufficient for black businesspeople to be passive shareholders only in big companies.

They need to enter the manufacturing sector and own factories and other production facilities. Only then can we say we are transferring or expanding the ownership of the means of production to the black majority.

In its first year of roll out, which is still in progress, the Black Industrialist programme has managed to approve 22 Black Industrialists projects with a total value of R1.2 billion and over 1 000 direct jobs supported.

In an attempt to facilitate access to markets for Black Industrialists, we have signed partnerships with a number of Original Equipment Manufacturersthat are interested in participating in the Black Industrialist programme.

We have to give practical meaning to the pledge we made during our struggle for liberation that we will never consider our mission complete and our liberation achieved, if the people of our country are still not freed from economic exclusion and deprivation.

We urge you to support the Department of Small Business Development to ensure that it delivers its mandate of promoting a thriving small business sector in our country. Our vision is to see the revival of the township economy.

Those corner shops that made many of our big name pioneers must be revived and supported. Many provincial economic development departments are making that goal a priority. This also includes our determination to support informal traders, who most of the time fall foul of municipal regulations and bylaws.

We need to find a way to help them earn a living while also respecting the municipal regulations. Also important is the need to register all our informal traders. We cannot have mushrooming businesses all over without knowing who the traders are, including those from neighbouring sister countries in the continent and beyond.This is one of the key projects of our InterMinisterial Committee on Migration.

We also want to see a thriving rural economy. Women in particular, in rural areas, must form cooperatives to sell their agricultural produce, crafts or any other income generating activity. This is important as it will make our people self-sufficient and not depend on government only. It will also enable government to provide support.

Compatriots,

Tonight is about celebration. It is about celebrating the achievements of our compatriots against all odds, without a sympathetic and supportive government on our side. Through the actions of these pioneers and leaders in business, we are able to motivate young people.

We say to our youth, if these pioneers could achieve their goals in a climate of institutionalised racism and suppression, you can do it better with a supportive government on your side. We salute you all on your outstanding achievements. You have proven that black people are capable in business.

You have made the country truly proud!

Together we will continue to build a prosperous South Africa.

I thank you.

Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa