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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
South Africa trade unity plans slammed
South African commuters board a train
Black South Africans: 90% of the population, 6% of the stock market
A leading black entrepreneur has criticised the merger of South Africa's leading chambers of commerce.

He has argued that South African Federated Chamber of Commerce (SAFCOC) - created following a merger this week - lacks credibility.

Since South Africa became a democracy in 1994, previously separate organisations for different races have merged, with sport and culture groups leading the way.

The predominantly white South African Chamber of Business (SACOB) and the almost entirely black National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NAFCOC) only finalised their merger this week.

Opposition

But some black business chiefs argue that they should organise separately until they have won a greater share of the South African economy.

In total, the black majority owns 5.3% of the local stock market including all so-called "black chip" investment, down from 9.6% in 1998.

Others believe that a merger with an older, established white organisation needs popular support from struggling entrepreneurs around the country, not just an elite of well-connected executives.

Patrice Mosepe, chief executive of African Rainbow Minerals, has emerged as the leading critic of the merger within NAFCOC.

While stressing the need to move beyond the "black and white divide", he said.

"My primary problem relates to the credibility, the authenticity, the support as well as the legitimacy of the process."

Under the right circumstances, he favours the creation of a single 'voice' for South African business, he said.

"One of the problems we have is that because of apartheid... playing fields are not level and black business need partnership with established businesses where skills can be transferred," he added.

Strong hopes

Supporter hope that the new business group will help re-energise black economic empowerment.

They also hope that by bringing black and white businesspeople closer together, the country may better avoid the strife that is engulfing South Africa's northern neighbour, Zimbabwe.

There, the government has just announced a mass renationalisation programme as the economy collapses.

"We cannot continue to conduct business along racial lines," said NAFCOC chief executive Sabelo Macingwane in a newsletter.

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African Rainbow Minerals' Patrice Mosepe
"We need to get a process in place that enjoys as much support and crediblity as possible"
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