Business is at odds about a possible merger between the Black Business Council (BBC) and Business Leadership SA (BLSA).

The BBC has denied it is in talks with BLSA over a possible tie-up that would allow business to move towards eventually speaking in a united voice.

The merger was apparently suggested by President Cyril Ramaphosa in a private meeting at Davos in 2018 after discussions with BLSA CEO Bonang Mohale, BBC chairman Sello Rasethaba and BBC secretary-general George Sebulela.

But Sebulela told Business Day: "There was never any discussion of any sort. BBC has never put that on its agenda so it’s not a BBC matter."

Sebulela said there would need to be a discussion about a suggested merger within the BBC itself before it was opened up to the external parties cited in the decision.

However, Mohale said: "The BBC and BLSA will continue to have this conversation."

Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman, Khusela Diko, said while she could not confirm whether the president had called for the merger, he respected the autonomy of the business organisations but would be encouraged by "any initiative that showed that the business organisations were working together".

In 2017 the BBC had a fallout with Business Unity SA (Busa), of which BLSA is a member, at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), ending a 23-year partnership between the two.

Busa, which is the recognised voice of business at Nedlac, formally advised the BBC in May 2017 of the termination of the co-operation after a unanimous decision.

Between 2012 and 2015, a memorandum of understanding between the BBC and Busa provided a framework for promoting the interests of business at Nedlac. The BBC had participated in Nedlac proceedings through Busa.

The relationship between the two had long been strained. In 2012 the BBC formally split from having Busa represent the interests of black business.

At the time, black business felt Busa was unable to represent its interests.

Busa seems to suggest there is some confusion about which body represents all of business.

"Careful consideration must be given as to how to leverage Busa as the representative voice of business in SA and internationally," says a statement on the organisation’s website.