Bystanders to the economy – SA’s township business in crises

Mr Zola Mtunzini, the founder of the Economic Revolution Business Forum, says low trade is “killing” South -African owned townships businesses. His forum wants to unite and support smaller Black-owned businesses in a way that would prevent them from having to go begging bowl in hand to government and private enterprise. He says he has “divorced” himself from politics because no help is forthcoming from politicians while the poor is getting poorer. He warns that the mood on the ground is one of despair – and urges people to use their vote to bring about change. – Chris Steyn

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Township business owners have become “bystanders” to the South African economy.

That is the opinion of Mr Zola Mtunzini, the founder of the Economic Revolution Business Forum who says low trade is “killing” townships businesses.

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He believes one solution would be for registered emerging businesses to be given the opportunity to supply goods and services directly to big companies, organisations, and departments.

“But currently, if you are not part of a certain organisation and there is work in that organisation, you are just a supporter, just looking at what’s happening. So we want to take things out of the political space and put it in a community environment…”

He says the forum wants to promote a “spirit of unity that doesn’t say you must be a black person to work with us, but what we need, we need progressive South Africans to stand together, understand, and open up opportunities (so that) we (can) participate in the building of a country.”

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However, he realises that it is not going to be easy. “Remember, as a South African, we have that mindset that if something comes right in our lives, it must come from Europe, America, and Britain. But here in South Africa, we’ve got the resources, we’ve got the land…”

Mr Mtunzini says one of the biggest challenges being faced by township business is the lack of protection from government. “And everyone is coming from whatever country they come from and opening up a spaza shop, a salon, a butcher…Those things should have been done by the local people. Township economy must be in the hands of local people.

“In our location, who owns that spaza shop? It’s the non-South Africans…(from) where the money goes (back) to their country. What about us? We are just there to buy and eat. That’s it. Now we need to change that system.”

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Mr Mtunzini says he has now “divorced” himself from politics because “politicians really are not here to help…It’s for them. It’s for them.”

He also slams the trend of coalition rule in municipalities. “A person who has got one seat or two seats will become a mayor. It’s robbery. It’s daylight robbery. Because us as voters, we voted for our political parties…If they fail now in municipality, how are they gonna lead the country? We will have a president in coalition every week because of what? This one is not talking right with that one, this one needs this…”

Describing the mood of despair on the ground Mr Mtunzini says: “People have lost hope. Others, they say, ‘I’d rather not go and vote’, ‘But my vote means nothing’. And they say that because of anger. They don’t understand that for them not to vote doesn’t make any change. If you see that this current government is not doing what is right, the only thing and the only solution is to go and vote them out.”

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