The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Zim Empowerment - Lessons for SA

ZIMBABWE and South Africa have been urged to join forces in the fight for economic empowerment to ensure that the economies of the two countries lie in the hands of black people.

Speaking at the economic empowerment indaba that ended in Harare yesterday, secretary general of the Black Business Council in South Africa Mr Sandile Zungu said South Africa was faced with the same war that Zimbabweans were fighting to empower locals but reiterated that the situation was worse in his country.

"Less than 25 percent of the South African economy is in the hands of black people and less than 10 percent of large companies are owned by blacks," he said.

Mr Zungu noted that although the companies had tried to cover up this shortfall, there were still just a few blacks in influential positions.

He commended Zimbabwe's indigenisation and empowerment programme and said South Africa still had a long way to go in implementing such programmes.

The empowerment initiative has seen the launch of Employee Share Ownership Trusts and Community Share Ownership Schemes that have proved to be beneficial to the development of communities and empowerment of employees in local companies.

Many companies and mines have complied with the requirements of the law.

Mr Zungu noted that while there were a few black chief executives in South Africa, the economy was mainly led by whites that took the influential positions.

"While there are a few black CEOs in a mainly white-led economy, you find that top management at food and clothes retailing firms are exclusively white," he said.

He also noted that these companies refuse to include black people in their businesses but would rather do corporate investment schemes to help workers instead of having indigenous retailers in their industries.

Mr Zungu also said CFOs on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange were mostly white males with a few white females and a few black males. He lamented the lack of representation of black women and small-scale enterprises in the running of the economy.

"Enterprise development is not doing well in South Africa, business still prefer to do business with established companies than with emerging players in the market.

He said the SMEs were not getting the support they need from large corporations.

"We are advocating for the setting up of a Black Empowerment Commission to make sure that the fronting being done by companies is curtailed. We want to give more weight to women and youths so that they can have access to finance and equal opportunities," Mr Zungu said.

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