Johannesburg - Black Management Forum (BMF) leaders will forever live to regret inviting a notable Nigerian-born author to be a keynote speaker at the organisation's annual conference that was meant to give accolades to the role of the black middle class in South Africa's economic transformation.

Instead of praise-singing, however, Chika Onyeani, the author of Capitalist Nigger: The Road to Success - A Spider Web Doctrine, was like a dinner guest who, after a few drinks, starts speaking out of turn, much to the host's embarrassment.

The conference, which was called "The role of the black middle class and business in addressing the challenges of the second economy", was meant to debate further issues of leadership, while also formulating practical action plans for the BMF to play a role in partnership with other stakeholders.

That Onyeani was asked to give the keynote address on the opening day baffles the mind because he is universally regarded as the scourge of the black capitalist and as one who uses every available opportunity to fire off missiles, so to speak.

Indeed, his rhetoric was not disappointing but it must have left a sour taste in the mouths of his hosts.

Perhaps it was out of courtesy to them that he did not immediately attack the South African black middle class, saying only that despite 11 years of liberation, there was insufficient evidence showing how this class was going to impact on the country's economy.

Then came the first salvo: "Forty years after the collapse of colonialism, it is empirical that the black middle class is parasitic on the African economy. They took over the baton of the economic leadership and also decided to take over the opulence that was left behind the white ruling class. Their only claim was that they went to school. They said they wanted a better taste of what their colonial masters were tasting."

Onyeani said the black middle class had been pampered by the masses, who expected to see a difference. Instead, they had become even more tyrannical than their predecessors.

"After 40 years, in which 52 African countries have become independent, can you point out any one as a shining example that you would be proud of? Military idiots have used weapons as passports to leadership. Today we still have military airheads masquerading as democrats," said Onyeani.

And did he not shy away from courting controversy on the subject of the black middle class and its diaspora in the US. Onyeani claimed in his book that the black race was a consumer race and not a productive one.

"We are a conquered race and it is utterly foolish for us to believe that we are independent. The black race depends on other communities for its culture, its language, its feeding and its clothing."

Onyeani added: "We must abandon the victim mentality baggage that we've carried for so long that somebody owes us something. We've got to stop whining and stop begging. The black race needs to wake up and stand on its own feet."

Onyeani said Africans and the diaspora needed to adopt the spider web economic mentality of the Indians.

"We must abandon the belief that whatever is white is better. We abandon our own businesses to patronise those of others. Contrast this with the Indian community. They support one another and the money circulates among the community. More than 78 percent of the motel business in the US is owned by Indians. I have great admiration for what they have achieved," he said.

Onyeani said there was more money circulating within the black communities during segregation than after.

"The black middle class in South Africa must study what has happened in the 52 African states and also in India. You are not only middle class but also black intellectual class. The African renaissance demands that we purge ourselves of this parasite. You don't have to be parasitic on the rest of society because you feel you are entitled. I don't want us to mortgage the future of our children for a quick-fix economic solution," Onyeani concluded.

Ironically, the conference session was chaired by Xolela Mangcu, of the Human Sciences Research Council and a long-time critic of Onyeani's book, who countered by saying that India's success in the world economy, particularly in the US, was the result of generations of the wealthy class preserving and passing on wealth. In the US, Indians had the highest per capita income and this had nothing to do with India achieving independence in 1947.

Quoting from a number of academic authorities, he said the majority of the people of India were dirt poor.

Onyeani retorted: "Our intellectual class likes putting forward ideas which other people have written."

One delegate noted, however, that Onyeani himself did not live in the very Africa he was criticising. Rather, he lives in the US.