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Sorry state of funding for black-owned businesses


There is an ancient story about a man, who when meeting an acquaintance he hadn't seen in a while asked in front of an audience: “do you still beat your wife?”

It is an impossible question to answer without somehow accepting guilt. Even if you say no, you can be understood to admit that you once did.

Senzo Tsabedze is chief executive of Afrirent Holdings

Many black business organisations find themselves in a similarly impossible bind. If they are doing well, they are likely to be accused of being where they are because of political connections.

If they do not have obvious connections, be they in business or politics, they are described as “obscure” and unworthy of forming business relationships with institutions such as the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and the Industrial Development Corporation.

Watching or reading about proceedings at the PIC commission of inquiry, one gets a sense there is an assumption that black businesses can only successfully operate with political machinations in the background.

It is understandable and expected that credit and funding organisations such as the PIC should ensure they do business with credible individuals.

But the credibility of a businessperson should not, and cannot, be reduced to how many times a media organisation has published unflattering and unproven allegations about them.

Frankly, a funding organisation, whether a state or commercial institution, that reduces the credibility of a business proposition to the so-called “political noise” around individuals close to the business, does not do its shareholders justice.

At the very least, it should ask itself where the noise is coming from and who benefits from it.

Given that the media plays a role in giving a platform to this so-called political noise, it behoves the media to take a moment to reflect on its role and ask itself if this does not contribute to stacking the odds against the black business.

It is hard to ignore just how often it is a black business that must deal with the expectation that its deals have no business merit or are proxies for political interests.

At Afrirent, we know this first hand. After winning the R1.26 billion 30-month contract for the supply and maintenance of some 2 700 sedans, bakkies and trucks to the City of Joburg, our company lost its financiers and is now working at restoring the damage to its reputation caused by a media report that has since been proven to be baseless.

The city launched a forensic report that vindicated Afrirent. Despite this, banks have shunned the company and we have had to deliver the fleet to the municipality without any help from the banks.

Media organisations that do not probe the effect of reporting glibly about “political connections” no matter how tenuous the link, succeed in making themselves at best useful idiots and, at worst, hired guns of business rivals. Either way, it is black businesses’ blood that is usually on the floor.

* Tsabedze is chief executive of Afrirent Holdings



Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER

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