Gandhi inspires South Africa to ‘Black economic empowerment’

March 18th, 2008 - 3:59 pm ICT by admin  

By Prabhat Sharan
Mumbai, March 18 (IANS) The genesis of ‘Black Economic Empowerment’ in South Africa lies in Gandhian philosophy, say members of a business delegation from that country. South Africa has once again turned towards the East, more specifically towards India, to help the country “emerge from the embryonic stage into a full fledged Black Economic Empowered country,” said Themba Ngcobo, president of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a member of the delegation.

“We were the gateway for the satyagraha movement. After all, it all started in our country. And today, we are again seeking India’s assistance to help us in making the gateway to the African continent,” Ngcobo told IANS here.

Black Economic Empowerment is a programme launched by South Africa to redress the inequalities of apartheid by giving previously disadvantaged groups economic opportunities not available to them earlier. It includes measures such as employment equity, skills development and socio-economic development.

“The genesis of Black Economic Empowerment lies in Gandhian philosophy,” said Lester Bouah, general manager, investment promotion (resources) of South African Trade and Investment Board.

“We have Mahatma Gandhi settlements (heritage sites) and they are preserved with utmost care. I think one of the reasons we blacks love and adore him is because his ideology instilled in us patience and confidence to fight racism and exploitation simultaneously. Maybe that’s the reason we are not looking towards the West but towards the East (now),” Ngcobo said.

But why the East and a sudden interest in India?

Said Bouah: “We are fed up of exploitation. Look, diamonds and gold are mined in our country. They come for polishing in India and then are sold in Belgium. May I ask you the rationale behind this …none. Why not have a direct access between the two countries and lessen the expropriation? It’s time that Africa, Asia and Latin America come together.”

Ngocobo added: “As for India, it doesn’t have a colonial attitude that other Asian countries harbour. What I mean by colonial attitude is the expropriation attitude. We had tie-ups with Chinese companies and they showed interest also, but then they wanted raw materials and use our resources in return. And nowadays we are very particular about our ecology.”

Bouah agreed: “This is one of the major reasons that we like Gandhian philosophy. For example, even though we are looking for investments and joint ventures, we don’t want to compromise with nature, ecology or for that matter our sovereignty. Indians love, respect and cherish these values.”

As per existing norms, in any joint venture, barring the small ones, South Africans will have a majority stake. Moreover, every firm, specially those that were run by whites for generations, will have qualified blacks on their decision-making boards, he pointed out.

“It is mandatory and compulsory that in every partnership, one of them will have to be a native black. Most of the powerful companies from India respect and in fact encourage this self-pride,” said Donee Kruger, project manager, investment promotion (manufacturing) of the South African Trade and Investment Board.

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