Sandile Zungu. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Sandile Zungu. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Sandile Zungu, the new president of the Black Business Council (BBC) will prioritise extending an olive branch to other business organisations to get business talking with a united voice.

Zungu was elected late on Tuesday evening, surpassing businesswoman Thandi Ndlovu, who was in the running for the same position.

On Wednesday, the BBC announced other office bearers. Nkuli Bogopa as vice-president of professionals; Bogopa leads the South African Institute of Black Property Practitioners. Keith Thabo is vice-president for organised business; he is also president of Namec Telecoms. Business veteran Judy Nokwedi is the new secretary-general. Accountant Bonolo Ramokhele is treasurer-general; and Tilson Manyoni, founder of Acutech, is head of policy. Businesswoman Bridgette Radebe — wife of Energy Minister Jeff Radebe and the sister to business mogul Patrice Motsepe — is chair.

Zungu’s critical challenge will be to restore the organisation’s credibility, which, in the past few months has endured a scandal in which its former president, Danisa Baloyi, allegedly misappropriated a R5bn donation to the BBC from the Airports Company of SA.

It will also be important to bury the hatchet and rekindle relationships with Business Unity SA (Busa) and Business Leadership SA (BLSA), which have been lukewarm.

"We need to … be at the centre of uniting business. First and foremost, black business, but also all of business and, therefore, we, as the new leadership, envisage a much more collaborative and non-adversarial relationship with other organs of business," Zungu told BusinessLive.

"Here, specifically I mention Busa, I mention BLSA because it is at the level of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) — where legislative processes are influenced by business in a formalised way — that we need to influence."

Zungu, the founder of Zungu Investments and previously an advisor to former president Jacob Zuma, said he would meet soon with the leadership of these organisations "to introduce ourselves and to state on the record that we advocate a robust relationship but [a] non-adversarial [one]."

Last year, a spat between the BBC and Busa at Nedlac severed a two-decade long partnership between the pair. It was hoped that former Busa president Jabu Mabuza, who was, concurrently, the BLSA chair, would bring unity to the trio, but this proved a difficult feat.

Busa is the recognised business representative at Nedlac, but through a framework of co-operation, which lapsed in 2015, the BBC had a seat alongside Busa. However, when the parties failed to agree on terms of a new framework, the BBC was kicked out of Nedlac.

A previous disagreement in 2012 saw the BBC abandon its Busa members to advance the interests of black business independently. Zungu said it was important that business talk with a united voice as this was what politicians expected. He said the BBC’s credibility was in tatters as there were "many people who see us as a critical component of the nation-state, who see us as a critical component of rebuilding our society and taking our society forward. If we are silent and our voice [in] contemporary analysis is not heard, society is weakened".

He said there had been "many narratives" that passed by without black business influencing the discussion. "Take, for example, state capture; what was the voice of black business on that? Can it be succinctly spelled out what it was? And now there’s this land restitution issue and what is the voice of black business [on that]?" Zungu, however, stopped short of commenting on the government’s contentious plan to expropriate land without compensation, saying his team had not yet met.

The state of the BBC’s coffers and regaining the trust of its members was another area of focus. Zungu said the BBC needed to begin to fund research and "employ people who are fit for purpose … We will be engaging [in] a programme, hopefully within the next couple of months."

Zungu said he accepted the role reluctantly. "I said, ‘how low is this bottom that I’ve got to build from?’ But the prospect of a challenge soon turned to excitement."