Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize

Minister Zweli Mkhize’s Address at the Black Excellence Discussion with Reverend Jesse Jackson

ADDRESS BY THE MINISTER OF COOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE AND TRADITIONAL AFFAIRS, DR ZWELI MKHIZE, at the

GIBS LECTURE: A TRIBUTE TO MAMA WINNIE HOSTED BY IKUSASA LEAFRIKA FOUNDATION

16 April 2018,

Johannesburg

 

Programme Director,

Rev. Jesse Jackson,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Good Evening to you all,

 

It’s my pleasure to join you tonight for this important discussion on Black Excellence.

 

We meet at a time when our nation is in the midst of mourning, as yet more heroes and heroines of the struggle for liberation are laid to rest. Given the stature of those we have lost in the past few weeks, we are reminded that Black Excellence has been around long before it became a hashtag.

 

Let me express our heartfelt gratitude to Reverend Jesse Jackson for availing himself to join us today to pay tribute to Mama Winnie in particular.

In the past weeks we have lost three leaders who embodied Black Excellence in various ways– Ambassador George Nene, former Minister Zola Skweyiya and of course, the mother of the nation, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Earlier we lost our musical icon, Hugh Masekela.

 

We are today drawing inspiration from Mama Winnie – intelligent, bold and fearless, and providing encouragement even during the most difficult times of repression to the oppressed black masses. She believed in herself and the capacity of black people to think for themselves and determine their destiny.

 

For many years she was the face of the struggle, a face that would not die down and keep quiet, despite facing the brutality of the apartheid regime on a daily basis. She kept the memory of Nelson Mandela alive in the hearts and minds of South Africans and the international community, through apartheid’s darkest days, when the regime’s Total Onslaught strategy was at its height.

 

We are thus inspired by her memory as we speak about Black Excellence today. And we do so because there are scores of example of leaders produced by our movement the ANC, and also many in society in general, who exemplify black excellence.

 

Our country has, despite the apartheid Bantu education system, produced outstanding black engineers, lawyers, accountants, quantity surveyors, medical doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists and a host of others.

 

Since the dawn of democracy, the ANC has also set out to open up opportunities so that black people can enter the economic arena not only as workers but as owners, managers and controllers of the economy. The growth of the black middle class is in part due to the conscious strategy of the governing party to transform South Africa and ensure that black economic empowerment becomes a reality.

 

Government introduced key legislation, regulations, licensing, budget and procurement as well as Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Charters to influence the behaviour of the private and public sectors and drive transformation.

 

However, we are all aware that we are far from reaching our goals. It is for this reason that we are talking about economic freedom and also about radical economic transformation in our country.

 

We need transformation in the workplace, in ownership and control of the economy. The pace of transformation in the workplace, the implementation of affirmative action policies as required by the Employment Equity Act, remains very slow.

 

The 2016-17 report from the Commission for Employment Equity shows us how deeply entrenched the system of apartheid is, long after its political demise. Black Africans make up 78,9 percent of the economically active population, but account for 14,4 percent of management positions.

 

In terms of the 2015/16 information submitted to the Employment Equity Commission, the representation of whites at top management level amounted to 72 percent whilst African representation was at 10 percent. The representation of Coloureds stood at 4.5% and Indians 8.7%.

 

The report further provides that white South Africans, in particular males, are afforded higher levels of recruitment, promotion and training opportunities as compared, to the designated groups.

At the level of gender at senior management level, males remain dominant at 67.6% and females at 32.4% percent. The skewed nature of ownership and leadership patterns needs to be corrected. There can be no sustainability in any economy if the majority is excluded in this manner.

 

The majority of the population also remains in poverty, and is unable to break free from the shackles of apartheid. According to Stats SA, White households earn at least five times more than black households.

 

The Ownership of JSE-listed companies: Research Report for National Treasury, released in October last year, estimates that BEE ownership of the total JSE market capitalisation is at a mere nine percent. These statistics are disheartening for many as they give an impression that Black Excellence is meaningless if the doors are locked and there is no entry.

 

There are many obstacles to entry into the mainstream of the economy by black professionals and black business, and many of these are subtle and covert, and are thus difficult to dismantle. The laws dictate transformation, but there are certain practices that black the entry and inclusion.

 

For example, black professionals and businesspeople find it difficult to break into the old boys’ networks and are therefore unable to find their way into corporate South Africa. From the minute black graduates leave university, they battle to enter the corporate world because they did not grow up inside the business networks and other network of influence.

 

Their parents did not play golf or go to school or university with the captains of commerce and industry and are unable to help them find meaningful jobs. Corporate South Africa thus remains an impenetrable fortress to Black South Africans, with just a few let through the back door.

 

Black-owned companies also find it difficult to break into the mainstream South African economy. The bigger, established players are able to out-muscle them in many ways, in all sectors be it banking, accounting or auditing. Black law firms find that they can do better through obtaining government contracts although they also indicate that some government departments do not give them briefs. Black accounting firms also battle to get meaningful contracts and also have to seek work from the public sector.

 

There was a time when black lawyers could only be criminal lawyers and labour, with the transformation of the labour environment, they became labour lawyers as that was where they could find work.

 

We want to see more black law firms in the company law field as conveyancers and also performing other commercial law work. Until these networks are dismantled and subtle but powerful forms of exclusion are done away with, it will continue to be an uphill battle to transform the economy.

 

Another hindrance to the promotion of black excellence is the prejudice that we must still eradicate. Black professionals face the indignity of the assumption that they are automatically incompetent when they assume senior positions. They have to work twice as hard to prove themselves. They are also automatically perceived to be corrupt as that has been the dominant narrative in the country.

Throughout their careers, they have to prove that they are capable and that they are also people of integrity. That does not allow for much space for growth and success.

 

This past weekend we discussed extensively that Mama Winnie should have been affirmed more vigorously given the role she played in the struggle for liberation. Let us correct that by affirming and supporting black professionals and black businesspeople, so that Black Excellence can thrive.

 

Black professionals and black businesspeople must have faith in themselves and in one another, and support one another.

 

The public sector should also provide more support, give business to more black contractors, and also pay them on time. It is unacceptable that many black companies face the threat of closure due to not being paid on time for legitimate work that has been performed. That is the type of practical support that must be provided by the democratic government in order to promote black excellence and radical economic transformation.

 

On Friday I will meet with black professionals to discuss the support that we require to turn around dysfunctional municipalities. We are meeting black professionals because we know that there is expertise that can assist us as Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. We need engineers, town planners, accountants, auditors and other key professionals to help fix our municipalities so that they can deliver services to our people better.

 

We need to see Black Excellence shining as municipalities begin to do what they should do – provide lights, water, cut grass on the verges of the streets, remove refuse and clear our neighbourhoods, provide parks for children to play, build speed humps to protect our children, run efficient clinics and other services. There are many skilled black professionals who can make these municipalities work, and we need them. We need the skilled black CFOs and municipal managers to prove that the democratic government can run municipalities efficiently.

 

That is what transformation will be all about, and it will be what mama Winnie Mandela fought for.

 

We must prepare the ground for the new generation of young, black and gifted South Africans to take advantage of the democratic era, break new ground, cross new boundaries, break glass ceilings and redefine what Black Excellence means. In our sphere, black professionals must assist us in ensuring that our municipalities become centres of excellence.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, there is excellence in every black professional and black person. Let it be nurtured so that South Africa can benefit from this vast expertise that exists in our country.

 

Let me once again welcome Rev Jesse Jackson a well-known US civil rights leader, a friend of the ANC and the South African people, a friend of Martin Luther King until his last days.

 

He campaigned against disinvestment, worked with many of our leaders such as OR Tambo, Johnny Makathini and others. He was a close friend of Mama Winnie Mandela, and is here to pay his last tribute to her.

 

He is no stranger to South Africa indeed and was awarded the highest order from our government, the National Order, the Companions of OR Tambo.

 

It is my pleasure to open this important gathering, I wish you all a successful and meaningful evening.

 

I thank you.