Mr Jimmy Manyi, President of the BMF

Ms Tembakazi Mnyaka, our host and chair of BMF KZN,

Prof William Makgoba, Vice chancellor of University of KwaZulu-Natal,

Distinguished guests,

Thank you for inviting me to this very humbling occasion, a gala dinner in my honour. They say a prophet is never honoured in his hometown; you are therefore defying the odds as BMF KZN!

This is my second BMF event in a few days! That indicates the seriousness with which we as the ANC take black professionals.

The ANC is in essence about transformation. Founding fathers such as Pixley ka Isaka Seme spoke of the African Renaissance and African Regeneration as early as 1906. We have always been a movement grounded in the need for change. We have always wanted to change the political landscape, the social architecture of the country, the economic status quo and to completely overhaul the living conditions of our people.

The Black Management Forum also stands for change. It has always stood for a new way of managing our economy, to make way for indigenous talent and indigenous systems of management. The BMF was formed during a period of heavy suppression of the views, talents and the expertise of black people in general, and the African people in particular. You stood against the tide then, as you are doing even now.

The membership of BMF has suffered in silence over many decades, despised sometimes by the workers on the shop floor who would have seen them as better off, and suppressed by the owners and management of companies who wanted them to go only to a certain level in the company despite qualifications and experience.

The BMF is an organisation founded to fulfil a special mission.

I am reminded of the classic article by Pixley ka Isaka Seme, published in April 1906 in the publication entitled "An African Abroad", in which he said: "I am an African, and I set my pride in my race over against a hostile public opinion``.

Arguing against the notion of the superiority of any race over another, he said eloquently in the same article: " My thesis stands on this truth; time has proved it. In all races, genius is like a spark.. It may arise anywhere and in any race``.

The socio-economic transformation of our country that we seek as the ANC is based on this premise. We do not believe that some South Africans are inherently brighter than others because of their race. We see in BMF an organisation that can help us to develop a positive identity for our youth, and nurture them to become better leaders, owners and managers of our economy. We see an organisation that can help us promote the notion of equality in the boardroom, factory floor and everywhere. At the 52nd national conference in Polokwane we spoke clearly about the need to transform our economy, and this project needs efficient and highly capable managers. Our vision of the economic transformation takes as its starting point the Freedom Charter`s clarion call that the People Shall Share in the Country`s Wealth!

Since 1994 we have made substantial progress in transforming the economy to benefit the majority, but serious challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality remain. We are therefore still at the beginning of the historic transformation of the economy. One of the key instruments of achieving transformation is an effective developmental state. We want to put the state at the center of development, and sharply improve our economic planning capacity.

We envisage the integration, harmonisation and alignment of planning and implementation across all three spheres of government. The same integrated planning would also cut across the development finance institutions and state-owned enterprises. We see a very critical role of state-owned enterprises. We want to ensure that while they remain financially viable, the enterprises also respond to a clearly defined public development mandate, and act in terms of our overarching industrial policy and economic transformation objectives. In addition to this, we see a key role for state owned enterprises in youth skills development. We would like to see the enterprises resuming the role they played in the past, of training young people for various trades as artisans. We need to start to systematically develop the skills that are needed in our economy. We encourage young people who plan a career in the public service from 2009. We want to establish uniform and high entrance requirements and standards of employment in the public service.

The ANC wants to emphasise professionalism, discipline and a commitment to serve. We need to ensure adequate numbers of personnel to ensure delivery, especially in front line occupations such as education, health and policing which will be our focus areas for the next five years.

With regards to the role of the BMF, we urge you to help us to improve the quality of public service delivery. The work ethic that is promoted in the private sector, of planning faster, and implementing plans even faster, must be promoted in the public service if we are to fast-track the delivery of services. We would appreciate if BMF recruits as many public sector managers as possible, to enable the cross-pollination of ideas.

In re-focusing the State, we may also need to promote a new value system and ethos. The questions we need to ask is how do we view the public we serve, and what type of leadership would work in a developmental South African setting? First and foremost, Africans value a human being, which is why we are taught from a young to greet anyone we come across, as a sign of acknowledging their human-ness or existence. That symbolises the importance we should attach to people we serve. When we say we must put people first, Batho Pele we should practice what we preach. A leader or manager in the private or public sector who does not value and respect other people does not deserve the position they hold. In a developmental setting, we must also acknowledge traditional wise words such as that injobo enhle ithungelwa ebandla. All opinions count. A cleaner or tea maker can be one of the best advisers to a Head of State! African culture has embedded in it the roots of democracy - consultative decision making. Africans also say it takes a village to raise a child, or any child is my child. All of us in this room are where we are because of many people in our communities who contributed to our upbringing in various ways.

We must therefore also look back, and support those who are up and coming. We urge BMF members to take seriously the task of mentoring young people for senior roles in management. We must not forget the humble beginnings that the majority of us came from, as that should inspire us to lift others higher, towards success. One of the most important campaigns we are running at the moment is the adult literacy drive. Government hopes to have trained 80 000 people by the end of the year, as we announced in the ANC`s January 8 statement.

We invite members of BMF KZN, as we did to BMF National, to take this campaign seriously and volunteer to be tutors in our communities. Government is looking for as many tutors as possible, so that we can quickly eradicate illiteracy in our land. We have prioritised education for the next five years and this is one of our key deliverables, as the ANC and its government. Such voluntarism, if done under the auspices of the organisation, will also go a long way towards eliminating any perceptions of elitism.

The next five years will be filled with hard work in our country. We formulated our policies at the national policy conference last year and these were adopted at the national conference in Polokwane. That is why we say there will be no fundamental change in policy, and that there can only be fine-tuning to sharpen certain areas of focus. The test will be in the implementation. We invite BMF to join us in that long and challenging journey, of making our people see the fruits of freedom through a visible improvement in their lives. Once again thank you for this honour, and for acknowledging my very humble and modest contribution to our country. I am overwhelmed by the gesture, thank you most kindly indeed. Together let us build hope; hope of a better tomorrow, a better country. We have no other country but South Africa. Let us strive to make her the best she can ever be.

I thank you!