For any response to the article by Rabelani Dagada (See link below), wherein he articulates his reasons for joining AfriForum to be deemed plausible, it is important to turn our focus to an era where there was massive political dissent, huge economic disparities based on race, and an unhealthy social context in South Africa. These culminated in the birth of the Black Management Forum (BMF). The historical institutionalisation of the marginalised and disenfranchisement of Black people in this country, which has come to be known as apartheid, required a structured and cogent approach in rectifying that system. The country today remains at a transformational juncture and thus this characterisation of BMF ought to be challenged and BMF’s position clarified.
The BMF is a non- racial, thought leadership organization founded in 1976, with the main purpose of influencing socio-economic transformation of our country, in pursuit of socio-economic justice, fairness and equity. There was never a BMF position that sought to marginalize any South African. It’s always been about advancing the economic interests of the black majority. The BMF continues to be vocal on these aforementioned matters and has been keeping Corporate South Africa in check. BMF stands for the development and empowerment of managerial leadership primarily amongst black people within organizations and the creation of managerial structures and processes, which reflect the demographics, and values of the wider society. Whereas BMF remains apolitical and is non-partisan, it is explicitly pro-transformation – a space in which most of our activities are.
Organisations like the BMF therefore ought to be applauded for being at the forefront, whose primary objective was and continues to be the transformation of our country in pursuit of socio-economic justice, fairness and equity. For Mr. Dagada to suggest that the BMF is an exclusively racially based organisation is chronically erroneous and mischievous. It is equally damaging to the image of the BMF for the author to associate the BMF with an organisation like the Afrikaner Broederbond whose focus has been the advancement of the Afrikaner interests and sustaining of a pre-1994 socio-economic status quo. All it points out is to his own personal ignorance regarding our collective history and his own penchant for appropriating misconceptions about the BMF.
The birth of democracy in South Africa has also given rise to a multitude of voices and ideologies, and whist we may not always agree on various issues as a collective, it is important to give expression to such multiplicity and to encourage, as we do at the Black Management Forum, the freedom of association as enshrined in our Constitution. We therefore support the decision by Mr. Dagada, or any other South African, to join a civil society organisation of their choice.
We do however find Mr. Dagada’s contention that AfriForum is wrongly perceived as a racially based organisation somewhat dubious and we are not convinced of his argument as it contradicts the basic tenet on which AfriForum has been founded, which is clearly stated in its Profile that it is “a Forum for the constructive activation of minorities to participate in public debate and action, in order to ensure a future for us in Africa”.
Where we do agree with Mr. Dagada is his articulation of the importance to “redress of our past in this country and to balance socio-economic anomalies amongst racial groups”. He correctly alludes to two of the vehicles agreed upon to drive this process forward i.e. affirmative action and black economic empowerment. We do not however agree that these transformational methods have been used to deny minority groups opportunities. These transformational drivers are pro-Black and facilitate meaningful participation in the mainstream economy.
You may think that this is a question of semantics, but recent statistics confirm this point wherein 64% of Africans, 35% of Coloureds, 11% of Indians and 4% of Whites currently live in poverty in South Africa. Expressed differently, less than 10% of the population continues to control more than 80% of the country’s wealth. More than three centuries of disenfranchisement and systematic exclusion can’t be reversed in less than two decades.
I think there is general consensus that affirmative action and broad-based black economic empowerment continue to be important initiatives to reduce the effects of a past system in South Africa which encouraged the advancement of one racial group over another. There is great value in having engagements such as this, in the media space or other relevant forums; and it is important to keep the debate alive where the merits and demerits of these policies are constantly put under scrutiny, modified and fine-tuned until the playing fields of all South Africans have been sufficiently levelled, and yes, we are still a long way off.
Issued by the BMF
The BMF was responding to views captured in this piece: http://www.politicsweb.co.za/politicsweb/view/politicsweb/en/page72308?oid=355366&sn=Marketingweb+detail&pid=90389