Carol Paton Writer at Large
Sipho Pityana, left, and Sandile Zungu. Pictures: SUPPLIED
Sipho Pityana, left, and Sandile Zungu. Pictures: SUPPLIED

Business heavyweights Sandile Zungu and Sipho Pityana have called a truce and will bring the two business organisations they head together for a meeting on Thursday.

Zungu, who is head of the Black Business Council (BBC), and Pityana, who is president of Business Unity SA (Busa) had an acrimonious exchange of letters recently, in which Pityana accused Zungu and the BBC of being complicit in state capture and bringing shame on black professionals. Zungu denied those claims and said that he would sue Pityana for defamation.

In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, the two said that they had met face to face twice before and would now convene an eight-aside meeting between their organisations.

The meeting would analyse the economic difficulties of the country and the challenges faced by business. It would also address the impact of state capture and corruption and explore ways to promote ethical leadership.

“A single-minded effort will be made towards a unified voice of business in SA to continue championing the interests of business and to better partner other social partners (government, labour and civil society) in tackling the challenges of disappointingly low levels of economic growth, stubbornly high levels of unemployment that then lead to increasing levels of poverty and increasing levels of inequality,” the statement said.

The BBC, which was formed in the mid-1990s to unite several black business organisations, became part of Busa in 2003 when black and white business organisations united.

But it broke away in 2012 after disagreement about the best way to transform the economy, arguing that re-establishing a separate organisation was the best way to advance the interests of black business. It was strongly supportive of President Jacob Zuma, and its political status soared during his presidency.

Zungu said on Wednesday that while the BBC wanted to have exploratory talks with Busa, it was not considering, at this stage, dissolving the BBC.

“The general view is that we need to find a way to talk with one voice,” said Zungu.

The BBC has been left out in the cold on several important matters concerning business as it does not have representation on the National Economic Development and Labour Council. After its break away from Busa, it sat on Nedlac structures due to Busa’s goodwill. That offer was withdrawn in May 2017 after the two organisation failed to reach agreement on the terms of their co-operation.

Zungu said that representation for the BBC at Nedlac would be on the agenda at Thursday’s meeting.

“We are seeking to be represented at Nedlac in our own right,” said Zungu.

The BBC had so far failed to persuade Nedlac that it had the membership required to be represented on the council.   

patonc@businesslive.co.za