Carol Paton Writer at Large
An open letter by Sipho Pityana to Sandile Zungu has upped the ante in the rivalry between the pro-Zuma and pro-Ramaphosa camps. Picture: SOWETAN/MDUDUZI NDZINGI
An open letter by Sipho Pityana to Sandile Zungu has upped the ante in the rivalry between the pro-Zuma and pro-Ramaphosa camps. Picture: SOWETAN/MDUDUZI NDZINGI

Prominent black business leader and president of Business Unity SA (Busa) Sipho Pityana has launched a stinging attack on the president of the Black Business Council (BBC), Sandile Zungu, saying he has brought shame on honest black professionals and has been complicit in state capture.

Pityana, who has written an open letter to Zungu in his personal capacity, is also chair of AngloGold Ashanti and his own empowerment group Izingwe Capital. He was prominent  in the campaign to remove former president Jacob Zuma from office.

The BBC, which was formed in the mid-90s to unite several black business organisations, became part of Busa in 2003 when black and white business organisations united.

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

But it broke away again in 2012 after disagreement over the best way to transform the economy. It is due to hold its annual summit, a prestigious event to be addressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, on economic transformation this week.

Pityana says he chose to write the letter to coincide with the summit, to urge BBC members to honestly reflect on the role the organisation played in state capture. The BBC was strongly supportive of Zuma and during his presidency its status soared, receiving privileged access to international platforms and state visits.

 “The BBC of your era brought utter shame to many of us who consider ourselves upright and scrupulous black professionals and business leaders. After all, you have been at the centre of it all. You took our black identity only to blemish us all. You represent neither me nor the many black people in whose name you insist on speaking. It is time you stopped. ‘Black Like Me?’ No. You may be black, but you are certainly not like me. Our different ethical compasses, it turns out, is what keeps us apart,” reads the letter.

Zungu has been a business partner to both Zuma’s son Duduzane and the Gupta family.

Pityana’s letter ups the ante at a time when public spats in  the ANC between the pro-Ramaphosa group and remnants of the Zuma group are ratcheting up.

Responding to the letter, Zungu said it revealed the “ethics and drama queen antics of its author” who has carried a personal grudge against him for years.

He said Pityana, who was an empowerment partner to Barloworld, had once tried to persuade him to publicly attack Barloworld chairman Dumisa Ntsebeza, at a time when his investment was floundering.

“I may have not been frank with Sipho then, but let me tell him now: the BBC shall never be the useful idiot of blackmailers who masquerade as entrepreneurs.”

Zungu said that, on the eve of its summit, the BBC would not bother “responding to personalised attacks by what is evidently a failing wanna-be entrepreneur who leads a rival apex organisation, Busa”.

“The timing of the rantings of a failing wanna-be entrepreneur is clear. He wants to steal the limelight and headlines away from the success that the renewed BBC is going to be.”