Open letter to President Cyril M. Ramaphosa


Dear Mr. President

– In response to the post- ANC Lekgotla Statement on infrastructure halting by entities and forums representing business in Townships

Following the most recent ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting and subsequent Lekgotla held from January 24th – 28th at Irene near Tshwane, the presidentof ANC and SA made a public statement on several issues detailing the agreed outcomes of the Lekgotla.

One such comment as recorded reads as follows: “The Lekgotla took a dim view of the threatening activities of people who describe themselves as business groups and forums that goes to a number of infrastructure projects demanding 30% stakes. These groups often act illegally and threaten violence. This cannot be allowed to continue, and we will take strong measures to make sure this activity is stopped” [sic]

This statement on the part of the President with clear reference to groups and fora that parade as business for its blanket a categorical assertion necessitated a response on the part of anyone who is a due representative of business in the spaces of delivery for the alluded infrastructure projects and all those structured into either an association or forum. To this end, we as IMBUMBA while not officially mentioned since the president failed to specify the names of those he accusedfelt it important and correct to directly respond to the President. Imbumba is a Zulu word that when translated means unity, tightness, togetherness and strength in common pursuit.

Permit us to introduce ourselves; IMBUMBA BUSINESS ASSOCIATION is duly registered in terms of Section 14 of the Companies Act, 2008 with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) of the Republic of South Africa. It as an entity falls within the registered Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) category of business, with a growing number of members comprising business made up of variedsectors, i.e. youth, other-abled, women and former MKMVA members as disenfranchised groupings. A non-profit organisation is an organisation incorporated for public benefit or other objects relating to one or more cultural or social activities or communal or group interest.

IBA in its non-negotiable mandate exists to promote ethical, legal, dutifully compliant, socially conscious, and environmentally friendly business practices among our members and third parties. It has as fundamental aims among others to create and sustain a supportive and enabling business environment countrywide with an overarching vision of uniting l local small business so these may express in one recognised voice. IMBUMBA’s business ethos which defines its daily practical daily activities and agreements works to encourage networking and information sharing facilitation among its members, in order to nurture productive and social conscience business relationships. The essential geographical space where IMBUMBA typically lives is what was always defined as Townships and traditionally apartheid marginalised and disadvantaged communities.

Imbumba works to attract investment, new business, and to support business development and entrepreneurial activity. It manages and organizes meetings and events that assist the provision of professional development and networking opportunities for members and others.

Our Reasons for a Response:

We have taken it upon ourselves to respond to your levelled accusation which ended in an undeniable threat on your part which we think was reckless and irrational. Our unpacking of your statement in this regard details a number of aspects that needs clarity.

For us, eight primary reasons inform our necessity to respondto the president’s statement.

1. Firstly, the president in the colloquial sense identified those whom he accused in frames of “people who describe themselves as business groups and forums.”This draws us directly into the discussion since us as a legal federation do represent organised business entities better understood in SMME descriptions as active in the length and breadth of townships of a SA landmass. As one of our founding principles, we exist to foster relationships between established and upcoming business in a mutually habitable and fair space often defined as township economy. To this end given the historical and prevailing realities of racialized economic disparity, we work tirelessly to ensure a fairer space for the black marginalised businesses are created.

2. Our second reason for responding to the statement of the president emanates from the fact that the president chose not to identify those he was addressing in name hence he left it open-ended for anyone’s interpretation. The challenge with this form of communication is that it translates to a gross generalisation if not a blanket swipe at all entities associated with business interest, that are active in communities where apartheid’s legacy left deplorable and vast development challenges. It is also the spaces where development naturally attracts both internal and external business entities as afforded in public sector tendering process and in strategic private-and- public – partnership projects.

It is within this specified economy that we as IMBUMBA as an organised and legitimate association strives to function and eke out an existence of equal opportunities for our members. Imbumba seeks to be a recognised voice for and represent the views of its members across the country irrespective of nationality, culture, gender, age, religion, or political affiliation. Promote the interests of businesses in all local municipal areas. It furthermore strives to foster, promote and facilitate an environment in which local business can interact and work together in collaboration for mutual benefit.

3. The third reason why it is important to respond to the president’s statement is the fact that the president in his capacity holds the highest office and such office demands respect. While the USA’s 45th President Donald J Trump daily confirms the challenge of an unchecked president who in an unprecedented sense has literally racked up thousands of blatant lies for his term in office. We in SA also learn that we must keep our political office- bearers across all spheres accountable to lead with due circumspect, a sense of morality, necessary principles. Our task is to always seek supreme clarity for delivered statements that otherwise may naturally be misinterpreted for a different agenda while we always strive to red-card all forms of corruption.

4. The fourth reason for our response to the president comes from the fact that if narrowly seen it may easily translate into an irresponsible statement that holds the unwanted potential of fuelling unnecessary ‘black’ on ‘black’ mistrust and plausibly violence in a contested space of infrastructure development. IMBUMBA as its primary focus and in recognition of the current economicdisparity exists to consciously engage and collaborate with main contractors and local government in matters which affect the development of Small to Medium Enterprises (SME’s).

5. Our fifth reason for a response emanates from the undeniable reality that the infrastructure projects as a Township reality warrant proper understanding in its practical lived experience reality. The conflation of business and politics in local municipalities is not disputed. Meaning there is undeniable evidence of political interest on the part of some Councillors in infrastructure projects the president alluded to. Often this interest assumes a party definition in which some of our affiliates as SMME’s are directly told: “don’t mess in this space because some politician owns this or that project.” While Councillors ought to concern themselves with the transparent governance of the respective municipalities, often they guard certain projects with political interest either from a local but not excluding other spheres of government.

6. In this sixth instance, the president spoke of business and forums or structures that ‘halt infrastructure projects with demands of 30% stake. Sir may we remind you that during June 2016 the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) under the stewardship of Minister Rob Davies, hosted an Economic policy Dialogue on Localisation. Davies made it clear that “Local procurement provides a policy level to minimise import leakages which translate into an outflow of funds whilst at the same time attempting to maximise both aggregate demand and supply in the South African economy.” In his April 2017 address he identifies localisation as a key policy tool for South Africa. We know that amendments to the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act have allowed Government to designate certain products that have to be bought from locally manufactured sources, according to the meticulous specifications. It is imperative to hear what Davies says when he asserts: “Some of this, under the new Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment scorecard, will have to be earned in some form of enterprise and suppler development.”

It is perhaps important to understand IMBUMBA’s prism of the 30% DTI led policy and government frameworks on a means of township localisation as allocation for local contractors and business in particular theconstruction sector. We see this as an important intervention in line with adopted ANC RET policies of its 54th Conference. We furthermore regard it as a necessary mechanism to localise and support local economic development. In terms of BEE legislation tier one company can assist up and coming entities in particular the Construction industry.

Even more imperative we see this 30% threshold as a means to advance Enterprise and Supplier Development Strategy (ESDS). ESDS in SA is often deliberately misunderstood for Corporate Social Investment (CSI) initiatives when these two are mutually exclusive. While both are necessary interventions and endorsed by IMBUMBA, the ESDS is more the focus of our interest and therefore, we insist on the uphold and transparent implementation of this policy framework. For the record, IMBUMBA seeks to engage and collaborate with legally functional business organisations elsewhere as well as other local civic organisations to enhance local conditions for economic activity.

7. Lastly, the president used the following words; “thesegroups often act illegally and threaten violence.” It is difficult to deduce what the president means with the groups acting ‘illegally and threatening violence’. IMBUMBA considers this very strong claims that where necessary demands the necessary structures of governance immanent in its investigative authorities to unravel and lead in such. IMBUMBA’s observation,based on our grassroots involvement, on what is considered ‘halted projects’ confirms a community led desperate strategy and tactics frame essentially in the interest of getting the attention of those who continue to ignore the grassroots participants and its members to achieve the desired result of equal playing fields.

8. We herewith responsibly seek to caution the presidentand our political leaders to firstly be categorically clear when they make these sweeping statements. The ‘strong measures to make sure this activity is stopped’ threatstands in the form of previous commentary of the president. The president would appreciate that the now historical yet very unfortunate LONMIN companyemails on his instructed ‘concomitant action’ that to this day is considered as having directly resulted in theMarikana Mass Murder episode and tragedy hitherto still an unresolved matter continues to haunt as many directly accuse him of having blood on his hands. We are not desirous that his threat as concluded for his statement is wrongly interpreted by criminal elements and hooligans as a ‘presidential licence’ that would cause unnecessary strain in already volatile contested economic spaces that as we have seen from the SA history often result in ‘black on black’ violence.

We implore the president to be cognisant of the reality of what we termed political interest in these projects not as imagined, neither as figment of our imagination but as a sojourning reality. We expect the president to equally engage this political vested interest in infrastructure development projects and red-card these for what it is. It is our conviction that had the president been duly apprised he would have known of this ongoing reality of self-enrichment on the part of some political elites. This avarice and crass materialism as we so often see associated with ANC celebrations that daily continue to rob the poor at township level.

We, as IMBUMBA Business Association think there is more than ample opportunity and space for Government across its three spheres [National, Provincial and Local] to engage legal structures associations and forums active in business no different to how the president often leads delegations to meet big business, for example, Aspen Health Care, Bidvest, Investec or any entity that represents colonial and apartheid beneficiaries in business. The president is at pains to advocate that we regard the aforementioned as heroes of a SA economy when the president is yet to celebrate the work of black business at localised levels. Yet we heard the president in 2019 when he on the announcement of the new Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter categorically asserted: “We will continue to appoint white competent people and others.” We heard him loud and clear on his notion of ‘others’ whom it readily must be assumed is in reference to black people.

The president warrants being more circumspect to insist on proper and due research in establishing the undeniable facts before he pronounces in such categorical sense on sensitivesubjects as he did in this instance. In the absence of insisting on being duly briefed the President runs the risk of making empty yet very volatile political statements of sabotage as he recently in an uninformed and as his deputy DD Mabuza insisted misleading sense made on Eskom load-shedding.

In conclusion, we seek to remind the president that the ANC recently was gravely shocked to first-hand witness the pathetic state of a glaring lack of service delivery in the Northern Cape [the smallest province in population definition], where the ANC was embarrassed with a very small crowd for the most important day of its annualised calendar, its January 8 Statement. There is little doubt that Kimberley and Qwa-Qwa in the Free State and other similar communities confirm the true challenges the ANC led government stands confronted with and this is not different in transforming the business spaces into equal spaces for that apartheid defined second class citizenship.

We will continue to serve the interest of our members while we uphold all laws of a democratic South African society and unconditionally condemn all forms of violence or threats regardless of origin because our language is a language of transformation and not reactionary violence. We equally do so in line with existing and developing policy frameworks that confirm localisation and township development as geared to work for enterprise and supplier development in benefitting the immediate communities and not a means to see funds flow out of the said communities. If working for the advancement of local business constitutes any wrong let the president show us where in his prism of localisation and township development by means of infrastructure development works in known spaces of external greedy white private sector entities in cahoots with political interest that act as gatekeepers for development in communities.

We ask that the president be direct and to desist speaking in riddles and hide behind neutral terms of ‘associations’, ‘forums’, or ‘people’. Economic Transformation remains aradical pursuit and there is no easy means to attain that but to recognise our chequered past and the new anomaly of an upkeep of that old racist system by new black government elites who make up part of the economic beneficiaries of our liberation struggle.

Without any prejudice.

Mr. Themba Khumalo

President – IMBUMBA Business Association