Co-operative Governance and Local Government Zweli Mkhize. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Co-operative Governance and Local Government Zweli Mkhize. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Blacks cannot thrive in the corporate world while the "impenetrable fortress" of business remains locked.

This is according to Co-operative Governance and Local Government Minister Zweli Mkhize when giving a speech at Johannesburg’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs) on Monday evening.

"They give the impression that black excellence is meaningless if the doors are locked and there is no entry‚" Mkhize said. He spoke alongside American civil rights activist Rev Jesse Jackson. Mkhize said black professionals struggled to break into the "old boys’ networks" of business and that while apartheid had ended‚ some unwritten rules remained.

"[Black professionals] battle in the corporate world because they did not grow up inside business networks and other networks. Their parents did not play golf or go to school or university with the captains of commerce and industry."

Mkhize said being black in business meant you had to be better than your counterparts to be considered their equal. "We need transformation in the workplace‚ in the ownership [and] in the control of the economy."

Mkhize praised the democratic government and the ANC for growing the black middle-class. He conceded the government was far from its goal‚ because transformation in the workplace‚ implementing the Employment Equity Act and affirmative action policies were "very small" achievements.

He said black businesses needed a "psychological emancipation". "Black professionals and black business people must have faith in themselves and in one another. It is important for us to shed the sense of inferiority and leave it behind us."

Mkhize praised the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela‚ who was buried on Saturday in Fourways in Johannesburg. The 81-year-old struggle icon died earlier this month after a lengthy illness.

"For many years she was the face of the struggle and a face that would not die down. She kept the memory of Nelson Mandela alive in the hearts and minds of South Africans and in the international community through apartheid’s darkest days."

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