We are so privileged as South Africans to be able to share in debates with all our citizens who now have equal rights.   On a very personal note it is a very humbling experience as a young lawyer to collect debts.   In about 1965 I vividly remember being approached by one of the persons mentioned in this important article who was indebted to our client, a large bank, and being unable to pay immediately he asked for more time.   I was so impressed by his sincerity and dignity that I persuaded the bank to agree to his terms and all the money was duly recovered.   Just look  at where that man is today.   I am proud of what I did back then when it would have been so easy to take legal action to recover the debt.

Thami Mazwai is the director of the Centre for Small Business Development at the University of Johannesburg.    His article Blacks in business must do it for themselves was first published in Business Day and BDlive yesterday.   Read the entire article by clicking on the link [free registration required].   These are only some random extracts.

TEARS trickled down Ndaba Ntsele’s cheeks last Friday night as he recalled how he had survived from day to day as a young entrepreneur.   Today he runs a business worth more than R2bn.   He is CEO of Pamodzi Holdings, one of the bigger black economic empowerment (BEE) players.

He was being honoured by the Greater Soweto Business Forum for his achievements, the latest being his election as president of the Black Business Council (BBC).   A plea from local business leader Richard Sishuba to tackle the miserable circumstances of township entrepreneurs set the mood for the evening.   Sishuba emphasised that the BBC should ensure that government programmes lift township businesses to higher levels.   He referred to the hawkers just a few streets away that simply cannot make ends meet.   This struck a chord with Ntsele and tears ran down his cheeks as he recalled that he was born two streets away from where the event was held.   It was here that his father and other blacks owned businesses, having started them from scratch.

The government of the day decreed Kliptown a coloured area and blacks were moved to Soweto.   The Ntsele family went to Orlando West — minus their businesses.   But, entrepreneurs that they were, they started new businesses and Ndaba is thus a chip off the old block.   This former traffic policeman and township superintendent’s journey started three decades ago when his small business sold odds and ends.   Ntsele was also one of the young Soweto business people to learn from township business pioneer Richard Maponya, and he drank deep from his experiences.

He rightfully argues that enterprise development must be the cornerstone of black economic development.   He admits that Pamodzi benefited from the ownership leg of broad-based BEE as it bought into a number of corporations.   But, he maintains, enterprise development is the most solid as its graduates have been hardened by reality.   This is the route that the BBC will be forging and it will soon announce a major enterprise programme with the Department of Trade and Industry.   A number of experts are now hammering this initiative into shape.

Friday night was also an evening in which Soweto business accepted that it holds the key to the area’s socioeconomic revival.   For once, there was no reference to what national, provincial or local government is doing or not doing.   The expectations in black communities about what the government should be doing for them are frightening.   The ruling party is to blame for this as it cultivated this entitlement syndrome.   While it made sense in 1994 for the African National Congress, straight from the liberation struggle, to assure the black community that things were going to change, it went overboard and virtually recreated itself as the sole provider of everything, including jobs.   Fortunately, the penny is now dropping that this is not possible.