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President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GOVERNMENTZA/FLICKR.
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GOVERNMENTZA/FLICKR.

The business community must admit some of their colleagues were complicit in state capture, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday evening. 

“By far one of the greatest blows state capture did was to weaken our public institutions and state-owned enterprises. These were also weakened through private company interests,” he said.

The president was addressing the Black Business Council summit dinner at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, Gauteng.

He said: “Billions were looted through state-owned entities and the capacity of the state was steadily eroded, and in some cases even destroyed. In a number of cases some companies and individuals in the private sector were complicit in acts of corruption, overcharging and collusion. We must never lose sight of that.

“The era of capture was also associated with illicit financial outflows, tax evasion and other financial crimes. Some of our compatriots in business participated in all this as well.”

Ramaphosa said he would like organisations such as the Black Business Council to be vocal about such matters, so “it should not be the Cyril Ramaphosas alone or people in government alone talking about this. If we are not vocal, some companies may want to do it over and over again.”

Rebuilding SA, he said, was a collective effort and responsibility.

“Over a decade, our economy was bludgeoned, our state-owned entities were bludgeoned and state capacity, inside government itself, was bludgeoned and weakened over this period. It also hurt the course of BEE and the advancement of black professionals.”

Some black professionals saw short-term interests and went with the flow, the president said. “Only much later did they realise they were being sucked into a process that was corrupt, that was weakening BEE and the state, and in doing so there was further impoverishment of BEE.”

Ramaphosa said the actions of those responsible must not further undermine black empowerment or hold back transformation.

“We must not allow a climate where empowerment is viewed with suspicion; where it is harder for black businesses to raise finances or struggle to transact with government. We must resist and refuse the calls to abandon the transformative policies and defer the task of broad-based economic empowerment.”

More than ever “we need to tackle empowerment with greater intensity and in the face of those who use the new weapon”. Ramaphosa said the new weapon was the use of “lawfare”, or the courts of law.

“They are waging war against transformation and progress for black people.”

He said collectively, black people should sit down “rather than throw stones at one another”.

BEE needed an environment in which companies could grow and thrive and find new markets, he said. He called on business to work with the government to transform the country where there were shortfalls.



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