Small business development minister Lindiwe Zulu. Picture: GCIS
Small business development minister Lindiwe Zulu. Picture: GCIS

In his letter of 19 December 2018, Bernard Swanepoel accuses me of protecting my job and that of small business development minister Lindiwe Zulu as I am her adviser. Such personal attacks are not surprising as they muddy the water and  blur conceptual issues. 

Unsurprisingly, Swanepoel insists on the demand by his Small Business Initiative (SBI) and the Small Business Project (SBP) that the department of small business development be closed and small business developmentbe implemented across all departments.

Rightly, he says it is a function of all government departments. To assist him a little, all government departments have small business initiatives and the role of the department of small business development is to coordinate. Hence it has transversal agreements with various departments. However, negotiations and resistance are the order of the day as these entities have strategies and contracts with service providers in place. in any case, efforts at coordination continue and more departments are coming to the party.

Incidentally, the establishment of this department was also demanded by black business on the basis of felt needs. Must the ANC ignore voters with a sensible idea?

Swanepoel tells a blatant lie when he says that small business sub-committee chairperson Ruth Bhengu has also questioned the need for the department. The point is that the department of small business developmentand its entities have submitted reports to the subcommittee on the basis of their annual performance plans.

It is on this basis that Bhengu and subcommittee members, whose mandate is to hold the department to account, have praised or criticised specific officials. They have not questioned the need for the department but hammered specific officials and the relevant sections or divisions.

Regarding underspending, the department of small business development explained why it could not spend parts of its budget.  It is a new department and while it budgeted money for specific programmes, the necessary systems were not yet in place. Had it spent the money despite this, the Swanepoels of this world would now be on another campaign against wasteful and fruitless expenditure.

The reference to corruption is mischievous and opportunism at its worst. The department inherited its programmes and the abuse referred to is of an historical nature, and not specific to the period from 2014. The office of the auditor-general, while doing its regulatory audit, picked up some pointers of possible fraud spanning years before the launch of the department of small business development.

The department reacted and appointed the auditor-general  to further investigate these allegations. It is now awaiting the auditor-general's report and will not hesitate to deal with corrupt elements identified.

Thami Mazwai
Special adviser to minister of small business development