Guest Post by Mulaifa Sigubu
On November 4, I read an article about how mining giant Anglo American will gain a controlling interest in De Beers. The company will part with US$5.1 billion for 40 percent of the company’s shares, held by the Oppenheimer family.
The deal marks a historic transformation for the South African industrial family, which has had a leading role in both companies for almost ninety years. This business deal increases Anglo American’s stake in De Beers to 85%.
Having read the article, I could not stop thinking about ANC Youth League president Julius Malema. Malema, over the years, has been outspoken about South Africa’s mineral resources; stating that they should be nationalised.
However, nationalisation of mineral resources by definition is not a bad idea, as it is an accepted method for governments around the world to extract sufficient rent from the limited resources they have, said Martin Kingston, CEO of Rothschild South Africa, an investment bank. Kingston was speaking at the AngloGold Ashanti/Motjoli Resources’ Mining for Change seminar in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
One needs to comprehend that Malema capitalised heavily on the emotions of poor people. He recently led thousands of predominantly black unemployed youths to the Union Buildings on his so-called economic freedom march. Malema chose the most powerless and poorest people to manipulate in his quest to gain popularity. He would be clad in his fancy suits and patronise the people by raising hopeless yet justifiable grievances while he lived a lavish lifestyle.
Malema has now become the perfect example of the 2 Samuel 1:25 Bible verse – “How the mighty have fallen in battle!”. The question is: now that he has lost his political supremacy, can South Africa finally become sane?
For years the enthralment with Malema by the local media bordered and still borders on small-mindedness while we, the readers, are held incarcerated by it. Besides, I do not know what is so newsworthy about him, spitting on the poor in the name of economic freedom.
It appears that whoever came up with this English proverb, “an empty vessel makes the loudest noise” was precise. Malema, clearly, is that vessel, and to this day, I wonder what leadership qualities were bestowed unto him. I, for one, am glad that the ANC decided to fill that vessel. I just hope that it doesn’t become empty again.
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By guest blogger Mulaifa T. Sigubu
Millions of BlackBerry users across the world were infuriated when there was an outage of internet service including sending and receiving emails as well as instant messaging on the phone.
Research In Motion Ltd, the Canadian smartphone manufacturer, said a vital link in its European infrastructure failed on Monday, and a backup did not work either. The underlying problem has been resolved, but the issue of built up backlog of e-mails and messages the company has yet to work on it.
Meanwhile, thousands of BlackBerry users vented their rage on Twitter, stating that “It is World Mental Health Day and BlackBerry users are going mental!” It seems like BlackBerry outage has proved beyond doubt that consumers at large are now heavily dependent on technology and are now paying the price.
Some experts believe extreme use of the Internet, cell phones and other technologies can cause users to become more impatient, impulsive, forgetful and even more self-absorbed. Users are paying a price in terms of our cognitive life because of the virtual lifestyle.
As users we spend a lot of time with our devices, and some studies have suggested that excessive dependence on cell phones and the Internet is akin to an addiction. As far fetched as this might sound, I was down in the dumps when my BlackBerry was not functioning.
The withdrawal symptoms were just too great to endure.
The society has become almost utterly dependant on technology. A friend of mine once told me that technology was designed in a way that once you become used to it, it then becomes virtually impossible to live without. Every generation is uncomfortable with the next generation as they move into uncharted territory. Beyond a certain level, one just cannot attach any importance to the criticisms about new tech.
Technology is here to stay, and the smartest option would be to use it properly to further the development of mankind.
However, one need not to be too attached to it lest it malfunctions one will be left to carry the blunt.
There is a saying: “When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold”.
Not anymore. The 17-member bloc of European countries sharing the Euro currency, known as the euro zone, has got this down pat.
When they sneeze, we catch a cold. Perhaps that is not entirely correct. When Greece and Italy sneeze, we catch a cold.
Greece has been doing the majority of the sneezing, as medicine administered to it in the form of bailouts from the European Financial Stability Facility failed to work.
The country has been staggering from one disaster to another, dragging global markets down with it.
Analysts say the rand has lost 15% of its value against the dollar since August, trading at around R8.24 in mid-morning on 4 October. Investors have been taking flight from “risky” assets like the rand to place their money into “safe” ones such as the dollar, Swiss franc and gold, just in case a Greek debt default sparked another global recession.
If you are a fan of American music and have been looking forward to a new release by, say, Rihanna –that CD is going to cost you a whole heap more than you expected.
The petrol price is going to increase because crude oil, priced in dollars, is more expensive.
Hardcore fashionistas would have to pay more for their Guccis, Tom Fords, Dolce & Gabbanas and Christian Louboutins.
Khanyi Mbau will have to find a richer sugar daddy to fund her passion for imported blue cheese.
All mostly because Greece can’t get its ducks in a row, even after receiving €20bn from its €110bn bailout fund.
It has consistently missed targets set for it by the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Central Bank (known as the troika), in order to access the next €8bn instalment of its 30-year.
And it needs the instalment to avoid running out of money by the middle of this month. Shame.
CNN Money reported Gao Xiqing, the head of the China’s sovereign wealth fund, suggested at a panel discussion on the sidelines of the IMF and World Bank meetings last month that resolving the current crisis will require a major cultural and social shift across Europe.
He framed the problem as a conflict between the relaxed work ethic of southern European countries, such as Greece, and the fiscal discipline of Northern countries like Germany.
While he described Europe’s political system as a “true democracy,” he said the failure of European leaders to resolve the crisis reflects the flawed structure of the euro currency and the difficulty of finding political consensus across 17 different nations. “It’s clear there are some birth defects with the euro,” he said. “You need to change your way of living, your way of spending.”
I hope that happens sooner rather than later.
Kally Forrest tells a lengthy story of metal workers: “These soldiers of metal unions freely shared with me their experiences, struggles, sufferings, victories, jubilations, thoughts and analyses of the unions’ role in the period they participated in,” she says. “Their narratives and observations were astute and at times inspirational, even when it was painful for them to revisit such memories.”
For personal reasons I have always searched for knowledge and understanding on the significance of the 80s within the broader SA socio-political and economic struggle. Being born in that era, I hold that the events of that time have a fundamental expression in my everyday outlook on life and thus Kally Forrest’s “Metal that will not bend” was a welcome read.
Focusing on the evolution of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), the book traces the historical moments that defined the workers’ rights struggle in SA, almost making a mockery of those who are today calling for the repeal of labour laws.
In penetrating the institutional memory of black labour, Forrest touches a raw nerve as she demonstrates how the corporate SA accumulated superprofits on the abuse of black labour and its collaboration with the apartheid government, which is a subject some deem a taboo in contemporary SA.
She exposes the similarities between the tactics that were applied by business to quash workers’ organisations and the strategies used by business today to avoid workers organizing in the workplace, providing key answers to the challenges facing SA today.
Writing for Business Day, Itumeleng Mahabane verifies the relevance of “Metal that will not bend” when he notes that “context is everything and yet, in SA, the context that arises from the legacy of our past is too often disregarded…Yet an obdurate refusal to consider how that past shapes the present makes us blind to the pitfalls that are otherwise avoidable.”
Forrest does not spare the rod either, as she criticizes the union for neglecting migrant workers – who were at one point instrumental in building union power. She argues that the negligence created a vacuum between migrant workers and the communities, resulting in a fertile ground for the civil war between Inkatha-led hostel dwellers and residents in the early 90s.
A significant expression of Numsa’s political philosophy is captured in its attempts to influence the ANC government policy post ’94, particularly with the initial conception and drafting of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), which was nonetheless watered down by the ruling party in its adoption.
For those interested in the theory of unionism the final chapter provides different strands of thought that shaped labour movements globally. These include Robert Michels, Richard Lester, Colin Crouch, Charles and many more.
Zwelinzima Vavi of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) describes Forrest’s work as “a lesson from pioneers who forged the weapons of today.”
Kally Forrest is the former editor of the South African Labour Bulletin.
Win a copy of “Metal that will not bend” signed by Numsa president Cedric Gina. To enter, please answer the following question:
Who is the author of “Metal that will not bend”?
Email the answer to: email@example.com. Entries close on Thursday 29 September 2011. NB: this book giveaway is a personal initiative of the writer and has no legal bearing on Avusa Media or any of its associated partners.
By Moyagabo Maake and Siphiliselwe Makhanya
Business heavyweights descended on Vodacom World in Midrand last week to witness two women being awarded the title of the Businesswoman of the year.
The award, which is a partnership between the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa and commercial banker Nedbank, has been honouring South Africa’s outstanding businesswomen since 1980.
Vying for the honours in the entrepreneurship category were:
In the corporate category were:
The judging was very difficult in the entrepreneurship category this year, according to judge Danisa Baloyi.
“All of them fought for survival through these difficult times and none of them are in the red. None of them are struggling financially,” Baloyi said.
The winners were announced after performances by poet Don Mattera and crooner Loyiso Bala, as well as speeches by Businesswomen’s Association president Kunyala Maphisa, Nedbank chief executive Mike Brown, and chief executive of headline sponsor Telkom, Nombulelo Moholi.
Nondumiso Mzizana took the entrepreneurship award, while Philisiwe Buthelezi executed a victory dance on her way to the stage – as her supporters cheered from the floor – to collect the corporate award.
On why Mzizana won, Baloyi said that she hated that the focus was on the winners that night, as all the women in the entrepreneurship category were exceptional and met all the criteria for the award. It came down to focus.
The problem with business people was that they want to be “all over the place”, Baloyi continued.
Mzizana was focused, which differentiated her from the other finalists.
“When asked what else she’d be doing, she said ‘this thing, because I’m experienced…this is what I know’,” Baloyi said.
On Buthelezi, corporate judge Boni Dibate said Buthelezi had created a lot of work for other women, appointing them as managers as well as board members.
“She does a lot of work in Africa, even in France. In fact, she speaks French fluently,” Dibate said.
While writing this piece, I racked my brain trying to think of some prominent South African female entrepreneurs. Powerful, wealthy women who have achieved immense success in the business world, but I struggled for the most part. It then dawned on me on how the vicious cycle just keeps repeating itself: our lack of female entrepreneurs is not motivating, encouraging and inspiring enough young women to pursue businesses. I could think of a lot of American female movers and shakers (thanks largely to reality television), but not enough female South Africans.
According to a “State of Entrepreneurship in South Africa” report released by Endeavor in conjunction with FNB last year, most female entrepreneurs in South Africa seem to be lifestyle and not high-impact entrepreneurs. The assumption that the report found is that men entrepreneurs can focus on their businesses more than women entrepreneurs who tend to have multiple commitments to balance in their lives.
Some of the reasons mentioned in the study for the gap between men and women in entrepreneurship are women’s propensities to: want to spend more time with their families, want to avoid the stress of employing too many people, have less education, and experience more difficulty accessing capital due to marriage contract formulations.
Dr. Joe Rubino, who is an internationally acclaimed self-esteem expert and success coach, believes that self-esteem could also get in the way of business success. He believes that self-esteem is the cause for success, although he does have dissidents against him who claim that self-esteem is the product of success – but that’s new-age rhetoric.
When it comes to entrepreneurship, I have to agree with Dr. Rubino to a certain extent. It takes a lot of courage and self-belief to start a business and keep it going, and living in a patriarchal world has robbed some women of their self-worth through the amount of emotional, physical and sexual abuse that women face every minute of the day.
Not to be a complete downer, females are making inroads – but is that enough? Earlier this year FNB and Wits Business School released a White Paper on female entrepreneurship and found that up to 38% of all established businesses are owned by women and that more than 25% of these are making in excess of R750,000 a year. The research also found that the general age of business owners was 35 and most of the start-ups businesswomen were black. The research also showed that a lot more women were choosing to start a business even though they had other options. So, clearly there is hope but there is still a lot more to be done.
But it’s not all doom and gloom – in Part Two of this piece, I look at my favourite female entrepreneurs. Who are yours?
Calls for an economic Codesa come at a time when business seems vulnerable to talks about the nationalisation of strategic economic sectors and the expropriation of land without compensation. A debate which many sought to undermine in its infancy had suddenly grown into an imposing giant, threatening to wipe out the interests of the economically powerful.
When Julius Malema first learnt to pronounce the word “nationalisation,” the captains of the industry looked the other way and asked: “What debate?” “There is no debate on nationalisation,” they said. A cabinet minister came out guns blazing. “In my lifetime there will be no nationalisation of mines,” said Susan Shabangu, “maybe when I’m dead, and rest assured I’m not dying next week.”
Since the ANC youth league national conference in June reaffirmed Malema’s leadership and support, business and its allies have been peddling hard to gain ground that was lost. Now we could all agree that business is on a back foot and it is from within this context that we should understand recent calls for an economic Codesa.
Empowerment charter policies are collecting dust in the large offices of big business and as Jimmy Manyi once observed, transformation could have for a long time been the last item in the agenda at board meetings, discussed when everyone is packing their bags to go home.
But some have said that the best way to defend a revolution is to deepen it. So, those who eye an economic Codesa as a means to mining historically unprecedented compromises out of enterprise capitalism and market fundamentalism are not entirely wrong in their view.
It is also true that this conversation should happen against the background of the recent failures of globalisation and capitalism, but my fear is that such arguments, while valid, would run into a train smash of ideological cacophony. Some amongst us would chant market fundamentalism even when the bullet that is about to rip through their skull had those words engraved on it.
The first question one may ask then is whether it would be reasonable to discuss economic freedom outside of the political freedom that was gained in 1994, when millions of our people won the privilege to determine and influence policy, including economic policy, at a party political level and within the ambit of the constitution.
It would be totally unreasonable to usurp the hard won privilege of the poor at the whim of a cosmetic talk shop likely to be dominated by the interests of the new and old elite and consequently render the poor spectators in their own struggle.
Seventeen years after democracy the poor of this country have learnt the hard way that the word “miracle” does not exist in politics, thus they have taken back to the streets in protests. It has been noted that a major weakness of the poor in SA has been their inability to harness the popular power that comes with an electoral majority and in the process ceded their rightful stewardship of political dialogue to proponents of elitism and pockets of turncoat revolutionaries.
Thus we have continued to experience in SA what could aptly be described as the “tyranny of an economically dominant minority,” and Julius Malema has brought with him the realisation of what popular power could achieve.
The late struggle stalwart, Harry Gwala, had warned that those who are enjoying the fruits at the top of the tree would always cry foul when those on the ground shake it. They would argue that the tree would fall and everyone would go hungry. Yet they would never admit that they know nothing about hunger or that the fruits could fall on the ground for everybody to share while the tree still remains to produce more.
Introducing his presentation on financial reporting, mining journalist David McKay said: “the egos have landed.” Image after image, he showed face shots of mining magnates including Cynthia Carol, Brian Gilbertson and Roger Kebble.
I noted the following day that the seminar was partly an exercise by the mining giants to woo the media in preparation for a fierce nationalisation debate in the public domain as sparked by the ANC Youth League.
Why? Speaker after speaker, including Chief Economist of the Chamber of Mines Roger Baxter indirectly replied to arguments that had been made in favour of nationalisation with cautious effort not to even mention the word. But that is a debate for another day.
I think one need to look no further than the media sector and print media in particular, to see how big egos muddy the debate while substantial matters play second fiddle to their imaginary shadows.
For example, when one closely examines the Eric Miyeni-Ferial Haffajee saga, it becomes evident that to speak or write in defense of one or another is old news.
The biggest loser might seem to be Mr. Miyeni but whether or not he loses or keeps his job will not alter the fact that 1) there are sections of black people who are deeply suspicious about the media role in dealing with black leaders perceived to be speaking in the interest of black people, and 2) that media is overly intolerant to any voice of dissent among its ranks.
Both these material conditions have adverse implications for the general media fraternity. Surely the captains of the industry and general practitioners must be concerned about perceptions that the body is anti-transformation and intolerant.
It is also worth pointing out that these views are not only held by outsiders, but also people who slave for the media industry week in week out. You only have to listen to the talks in the corridors to believe what I tell you.
It is even more a cause for concern that these views are expressed in private conversations away from the powers that be, primarily due to the fear of structural isolation. This is further evidence that the media must create space to robustly engage with these ideas instead of dismissing them as red herrings propagated by delinquent militants.
At some point, I believe, sober people reach a juncture where they agree to disagree and begin to appreciate the valid and legitimate arguments put forward by their opponents, irrespective of entrenched positions.
That is a debate we need to be having!
Look at how the whole media tribunal exchange has turned out. One may ask: is the fact that one is a veteran journalist or a struggle veteran of impeccable credentials material to whether the arguments they put forth closely resembles the material conditions on the ground or not?
One such veteran journalist said in his column last week that commentators need to “set the agenda” in a particular way. But our national agenda is the daily reality faced by millions of our people so how could anyone “set” another agenda outside of these that? Little wonder people like Malema strike the chord because they do not respond to these real issues merely as inconvenient side talk.
There is, after all, a section of our society which does not entertain personalities and increasingly feel isolated when debates on matters of public interest begin to be shaped predominantly by the narrow interests of those who purport to be the voices of reason.
Perhaps I am being melodramatic, but let’s take a look at some numbers.. Data that tracks the total entrepreneurship activity of some countries has shown that South Africa is waning in terms of entrepreneurship activity.
In a recent report released by FNB and Endeavor South African about the state of South African Entrepreneurship shows that the total entrepreneurial activity for SA is 5%, which is less than half that of India, Brazil and Mexico.
Total entrepreneurship activity is a global index and it measures how much of the labor force of a particular country has started a business and also includes people who have kept businesses going for the last 3.5 years.
In 2001, the total entrepreneurship activity for South Africa was 9.3% and our labour force was about 12.4 million. This probably meant that about 1 153 200 people in South Africa’s labour force were pursuing some kind of entrepreneurial activity.
According to figures released recently by Statistics South Africa, the labour force is currently sitting at 17.7 million. From my calculations, about five percent of our labour force is 885000.
So perhaps it’s not a death as reflected in my sensationalist, dramatic headline, but it is a cause for concern. In 2009, the African country that came out tops in terms of percentage in Africa was Uganda.
The TEA for Uganda was 33.6% and at the time the Ugandan labour force was about 15.51 million. This meant that 5 211 360 people on the Ugandan labour force were pursuing entrepreneurial activities.
The landscape of South Africa and Uganda differs completely, but it is just an example that it is possible to breed a culture of entrepreneurship in African countries.
Last year the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship released a “Young Upstarts” report that showed that 65% of young people are keen to start their own business, with 8% off them planning to do so within the next year and 19% indicating that they ‘have a business idea, but have not yet done anything about it’.
Why are we hesitating? Yes, there are the usual issues of funding, education and growth restraints but I personally think that what we lack is inspriration.
That is what I hope to bring you (and myself) with this blog. Show you that if u really want to be an entrepreneur it can be done.
Yes, entrepreneurship may not yet be at death’s door, but the lack of a vibrant entrepreneurship culture in South Africa is hurting us much more than we think..
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