SBI chairman Bernard Swanepoel. File: IOL
JOHANNESBURG - In his right of reply to our right of reply, Bernard Swanepoel of the Small Business Institute (SBI) again misses the point.

He attacks the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) but does not directly refer to the points I made. It is natural he must justify his political case and at all costs. After all, the government is always wrong, worse still, if it is an ANC government.

The first point made is that there was no reference to methodology. He does not deny this and in his response provide the methodology or the collection of the data. He does not detail everything, more so the comparisons. In such a situation the basic point is that one must admit he made the omission and then rectify it, rather than bluff his way out of the situation. He then refers to this data from the SA Revenue Service and the Treasury.

For the record: the Small Business Project was assigned by the DSBD to put together the data he flourishes, and this was after a roundtable put together by the DSBD and involving the organisations he quotes.

Swanepoel is involved in both the Small Busines Association (SBA) and the SBI. In other words, the right hand used data generated by the left hand on instructions from the DSBD. They then criticise the DSBD for flying in the dark on the basis of data they got from a DSBD initiative. Utterly unethical.

The next point I made was that the information he is producing, and accusations of the department flying in the dark, are not new. We referred to the research done by the Bureau of Economic Research and the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) to show that it is not new information.

In case he is not aware, Seda is an entity of the DSBD, and to suggest that the department is flying in the dark is simply disingenuous when its agency is generating up to date information.

He accused the DSBD of failing to generate a baseline study and we made him aware of two reports on the sector, one by the Department of Trade and Industry and the second by the DSBD.

Swanepoel then demanded that a unit in the Presidency be responsible for small business development. We again pointed out that this proposal was made some seven years ago, discussed and dumped.

After all, small business is the heart of the economy, and to reduce it to some unit in the Presidency leaves one with no doubt that he is oblivious of the fact that small business development is the most difficult in any economy, whether it is the developed or developing world. If anything, the DSBD should be expanded.

I will not dignify his postulations about the abilities of Minister Lindiwe Zulu with a response, as this is the normal chant and war cry of the opposition political parties.

However, and this speaks to his bias as a loyal constituent of the opposition, he hardly bothers to quote the responses of the minister to such allegations.

Finally, the entire refrain of the accusations by the SBI and SBA were based on the fact that they are coming with new information.

We have shown that the new information is old hat. I sincerely hope as they made the “discovery” of this new information they did not run down the streets of Rosebank naked and shouting Eureka!

Dr Thami Mazwai is the special adviser to the Minister of Small Business Development.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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