'They went to prison for a better Africa'

HARARE - Colleagues earlier on, the master of ceremonies said Zimbabwe is not the country to follow, whatever it does, the examples set in Zimbabwe are not the best.

But I feel very happy this morning to be among this esteemed grouping of South Africans who are gathered to chart a way forward for the majority of our people.

The reason why president Nelson Mandela went to prison, why President Mugabe went to prison, why Vice President Nkomo went to prison was because they wanted us also to benefit from our economy.

They wanted us to be part and parcel of those who drive our businesses and economies in Africa.

They did not go to prison because they did not have somewhere to stay. They went to prison because they wanted a better life for the African people, and we are here not to make apologies.

We are here to decide the future of the black people of South Africa and all Africa in total.

We are here not to start talking and saying well this is too much, too much for who? Those who feel it’s too much for them, if the heat is too much in the kitchen, they can get out; we want a better day for our people — period.

I was very impressed and I want to congratulate once again the BBC for this conference.

In the morning, president Zuma did a marvellous job. He spoke from the heart, he had no prepared text.

He spoke about the need to bring about change in the economic development of South Africa's infrastructure and indeed across Africa, the role of SMEs and the role of creating black capitalists.

The president was unapologetic. That is what we must do and we cannot apologise for what we as Africans want ourselves to be. Going forward — such levels of interaction is what will build South Africa.

Colleagues, this gathering you have started is a very long journey. You are here today, it’s not going to be easy, you are going to go through serious challenges and compare this gathering perhaps to the first ANC gathering when they decided to take up arms to fight for independence.

You are taking up arms but the difference is that this is now an economic war that you are going to fight.

You must keep focused on the big picture, there will be a lot of distraction, there will be a lot of name calling, and there will be a lot of excuses to say why we can’t do it. Pardon me Madam Chair, I always speak bluntly.

When the people decide to elect or decided to have a democratic African government, they did not ask prospective candidates for their CVs.

Have you been a president before, that is not the question. The people used a very simple method, a paper and a small box where they just place an X and say go ahead and do it.

If the majority could place so much faith on me as the minister of Indigenisation, why must I also not have faith in my fellow Zimbabweans being the drivers of the economy?

Gone are the days when we started talking about can our people do it?

The same people have not asked me, are you the best minister, they have faith in me.
We must get to a stage where we say this is what we have discovered in Zimbabwe, that it’s in our interest to place faith in the majority of our people, they must develop and grow our own economy and there is no economy that can grow because it’s driven by foreigners.

You are black and you are in the majority. What are you doing?

If you are not in the economy, maybe you are stealing, if you are not stealing maybe you are doing something else.

In Zimbabwe, things that have been said about my country, including the land reform programme but it was all an attempt to ensure that we create enough space for the majority, otherwise everyone would want to be President.

We decided that we needed more farmers, more tobacco farmers, we keep them out from wanting to be Presidents, they are busy on the farms, and I am sure this is why people vote for us.

They vote for you because they want to have something to do for themselves.

They want to see quality change.

It’s not about Kasukuwere driving a Mercedes Benz to the village and saying I have arrived, they want also to arrive, their arrival is when poverty is no longer part of their society, when they have something to eat in their homes and I must say from our experiences it’s essentially important for South Africans to be united especially when we talk about economic empowerment.

Moving forward, this is a large economy, we must ensure that those who are operating in South Africa stay and do their part but they should also not lose sight of the fact that the majority have been excluded from the economy for a very long period.

When we try and address that, we are accused of reverse racism.

We are actually doing everybody a favour, we are trying to secure a sound and fair investment climate for foreigners because the locals will be economically participative.

*This is a speech delivered by Zimbabwe's Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere at the 2012 Congress of the Black Business Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa last week.

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