Durban — Calls for black businesses to set up their own bank or to buy the cash-strapped Ubank continue to grow.
The proposal got the nod from delegates at the Funeral Directors’ Association of SA’s elective conference, held in Durban on Monday.
The notion of black businesses owning their own bank was discussed by delegates at the conference, also attended by former health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and current Health Deputy Minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo.
The discussion was perhaps influenced by Mkhize and Dhlomo, who both challenged delegates to participate in the value chain of the funeral industry by getting into the timber industry so that they are part of coffin manufacturing.
Both warned the funeral parlour directors that if they wanted to grow their businesses they should have a say in the entire value chain of the businesses so that they have a voice and be decision-makers, and not only be buyers of the product they use in their businesses.
Funeral Federation of SA chairperson, John Storom, said it was time black businesses owned their bank, and challenged delegates to start thinking about buying Ubank, or 50% in the African Bank, which he said was being sold by the SA Reserve Bank.
He said with 25 associations and two federations in South Africa, with about 20 000 members, they could contribute massively to the buying of a black bank.
Storom said that by successfully owning their own bank, black businesses would fulfil the dream of Richard Maponya and Sam Motsuenyane. The two eventually (in 1974) established the African Bank, but it was not successful and they had to relinquish ownership.
The bank was placed under administration a few years ago, and taken over by the SA Reserve Bank, which, Storom said, was looking for an equity partner to buy a 50% stake.
“Why don’t we buy Ubank or a 50% stake in the African Bank?”
His words were echoed by businessman Mangisi Gule, the keynote speaker. Gule, a non-executive director in several companies, including African Rainbow Minerals, and who has held several directorships at various other companies, said that for black businesses to successfully create black monopoly capital – as opposed to white monopoly capital – they must own a bank. He told delegates to stop blaming white people and white monopoly capital as if they were not allowed to monopolise their own space.
“We must stop blaming apartheid for our failures. Most of your market or customers are black people, the majority. You can monopolise that industry tomorrow and make it completely black but you must own your bank.”
Newly-elected Funeral Directors Association of SA president, Bhekinkosi Mhlongo, said the association fully supported the buying of Ubank.
The proposal was first made by Sekunjalo Investment Holdings chairman, Dr Iqbal Surve, who offered to invest R250 million in Ubank.