South Africa’s Zuma Wants More Blacks In Boardrooms

Written by Kevin Mwanza

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has called for more blacks to be appointed on company boards in a move he says will promote black leadership in top business positions, Reuters reported.

Zuma, who was addressing a rally on Saturday, asked the private sector to change its policies faster and give South African blacks a larger stake in their business.

“By excluding the majority of our people from ownership of the economy, by excluding them from the management of companies and from many professions, we are starving our economy of the human capital it needs to develop,” Zuma said at the ANC’s gala dinner in Sun City.

Through the Black-Empowerment Program, that came in place after the Apartheid rule ended some two decades ago, the country has managed to put more blacks in top jobs in state-owned companies and the military, but whites still control most of the private sector.

“Sadly the private sector lags behind … Many boardrooms and many top management positions remain white-male dominated. This must change,” Reuters quotes Zuma telling supporters at a stadium in the town of Rustenburg in the North West province.

“The country needs a private sector that acts in the national interest and which contributes to the attainment of the national goals of eradicating poverty, unemployment and inequality.”

Zuma’s remarks are seen as a populist move ahead of local election set for mid this year to woo young voters, most of whom are unemployed.

Unemployment in South Africa now stands at 25 percent and could increases is the current tough economic conditions, that have seen the rand tumble against the dollar and key sectors like mining and agriculture record dismal growth, persists.

The Africa’s second largest economy is struggling with one of the worst drought in post-apartheid era, while its flagship mining sector has been hit hard by slowing demand in China leading to some mines shutting down.

In February last year, Zuma incurred the wrath of economic commenters after he asserted that blacks owned only 3 percent of shares traded at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and asked for more involvement of blacks at the bourse.