I’m a black woman. You’d think I’d be the poster child of the state’s emancipation efforts
NEWS24 - CITY PRESS / 07 JUNE 2020 - 16.01 / DAPHNE MASHILE-NKOSI
In a recent Sunday service, my pastor retold the popular Bible story of King Solomon and the two women who each gave birth to boys in the same home around the same time. One of the babies died, and with each claimed the remaining boy was hers, King Solomon decided he would cut the baby into two and each woman could then have their half. We all know the end of that story – the child’s life was spared and the real mother got her baby back.
As a young woman I learnt that in customary law, women had no status outside of their husbands. My days as an activist in the 1970s and 1980s encouraged me to take on the challenging role of being a pioneer in leading the economic participation of black women in the economy. Over the years, I sustained many disappointments and experienced many challenges both in business and in my personal life, however, I was also blessed with great success in many of the ventures I pursued in the mining sector.
Daphne Mashile-Nkosi. Picture: Lucky Nxumalo/City Press
Almost 20 years ago, I bonded my home and painstakingly gave birth to my baby, Kalagadi Manganese. Over the past few weeks I have had to watch her being subjected to a legal battle that was unsuccessfully brought to the courts by its own shareholder and funder, who is meant to be a development funding institution.
The decision of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to approach the high court in Johannesburg for an urgent application to place Kalagadi Manganese under business rescue proves that its leaders do not understand or appreciate the role of the IDC in the context of a developmental state coupled with the political history of South Africa. Our forefathers crafted our B-BBEE policies with the objective of accelerating black economic participation and, more recently, government established the Black Industrialists Programme, which is implemented by the IDC.
As a black woman entrepreneur and the founder of Kalagadi Manganese which employs over 1 200 people in one of the country’s poorest provinces, and who took the difficult and costly decision of building a Sinter Plant to beneficiate our natural resources ensuring maximum benefit to South Africa, you would think that I’d be the poster child of government’s efforts.
A crucial element of the Black Industrialists Programme includes “significant influence in an enterprise or an industry”. I am one of the largest investors and operators in the mining industry, and one of a handful of major black players, let alone woman – black or white.
The programme requires one to have “control of the enterprise through shareholding”. I am indirectly the majority shareholder of Kalagadi.
The programme requires one to have “board and executive management control”. I am answerable to the board but I am also the executive chairperson of Kalagadi, in line with government’s objectives of seeing black entrepreneurs involved in their companies and not being bystanders or silent bench-warmers without any skin in the game.
The programme also requires one to be manufacturing products with significant wide use. Manganese is used to produce a variety of important alloys and to deoxidise steel and desulfurise. It is also used in dry cell batteries. Kalagadi’s sinter plant is the largest in the world.
So why would Kalagadi Manganese be hauled to court for missing its first instalment of a facility from its own shareholder and funder with a mandate to fund and support black business? Why would the implementation agency of the Black Industrialists Programme seek to place a solvent black-owned and managed company into business rescue? Why would a state-owned agency seek to usurp control of Kalagadi Manganese from its founder?
Plainly put, I am the problem. I am a black woman who, after refusing requests to step down and step aside, experienced the full force of an agency I mistakenly took as a guardian of government’s clear policies.
I won’t shut up. I know the pains of giving birth. I will not let this baby die. I will do everything in my power to stand up and speak for myself, and the many other black women and men that will come after me.
Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER