In 1964, amidst a climate of oppression and intimidation, arose an entity that would become a giant of Black South African empowerment – the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce & Industry (NAFCOC). In the 1940s, with the need for an organisation for informal black traders, the Orlando Traders Association was formed. However, it was not until after the Sharpeville uprisings that NAFCOC was formed, despite vehement objections by the government to the formation of a multi-ethnic chamber of commerce in South Africa.
NAFCOC, as the voice of black business, became a vehicle for economic prosperity for a generation relegated to the sidelines of economic development by an unjust apartheid government. Black people were so marginalised that they were limited to operating subsistence-type businesses outside the mainstream of the economy. It was only in 1979 that black businesses were allowed to operate in designated black areas only, due to concerted efforts by NAFCOC.
At the very core of NAFCOC’s existence is the creed ‘Rise in Faith’ and this most certainly held true for those pioneering, founding fathers of NAFCOC. They held out for and held onto a vision where one day Black people would enter the mainstream of the economy of the country.
This book is not just a celebration of 50 years of NAFCOC. It is also tracks the fight for political and economic freedom, long before the reality of a democratic government in 1994. It tells how NAFCOC enabled black business; how black business not only survived, but thrived against a backdrop of an unequal racist society.
There are not many organisations that remain standing after 50 years – that NAFCOC has not only managed to do this, but it continues to play a significant role for a new generation of black businessmen and women assures it of a continued relevance.
The author, Kwandiwe Kondlo, is currently a Professor in the Programme on Leadership for Emerging Economies in the faculty of Management at the University of Johannesburg. He was previously the Director of the Centre for Africa Studies at the University of the Free State. Before that he was the Executive Director of the Democracy and Governance Programme at the Human Science Research Council. He holds an MA from the University of Cape Town and a DLitt et Phil (PhD) from the University of Johannesburg. He is the author and editor of several books including Perspectives on Thought Leadership for Africa’s Renewal (2013), Africa in Focus – Governance in the 21st Century (2011) and The Zuma Administration; Critical Challenges (2010) as well as articles published in various journals.
South Africa’s story about the liberation struggle from the shackles of apartheid and colonialism is not complete without the National Federated Chamber of Commerce & Industry (NAFCOC), the first black business organisation, which turned 50 years in 2014. Notwithstanding the fact that NAFCOC is a business organisation and therefore, naturally, one would expect it to concern itself with commercial matters – however, the environment under which it operated, especially after the banning of all liberation movements in 1961, compelled it to broaden its areas of focus and included socio-political issues in our struggle for better trading conditions for the black businessmen and women at the time. To this end, the vacuum which was created by the imprisonment of the leaders off the congress movement and other anti-apartheid political formations, was somewhat filled by NAFCOC and we took it upon ourselves to agitate for both political and economic change in South Africa.
NAFCOC’s run-ins with the apartheid government and our will power to resist injustices was aptly demonstrated when the NAFCOC leadership refused to organise its structures along tribal lines. The latter happened at the height of the separate development policy of the apartheid state, where South Africa was balkanised into homeland states for black Africans, making up only 13% of the land and 87% occupied by whites. As a compromise, NAFCOC organised its structures according to regional lines. As NAFCOC, we acted as eyes and ears inside South Africa for the liberation movements such as the ANC and The Pan African Congress in exile. This close co-operation between our NAFCOC and the liberation movement resulted in many gains in our struggle against the oppressive system off apartheid. For example, it was NAFCOC that organised close to 400 minibus taxis to ferry the supporters of SWAPO during the general elections in Namibia in 1989. It was also NAFCOC that organised transport and accommodation for some ANC leaders who were returning to the country from exile in the early 1990s. Many of these anecdotes are covered extensively in this book.
The establishment of African Bank in 1975 probably ranks as the biggest achievement of NAFCOC partly because this act demonstrated to the world that black people were capable of managing their own affairs, including starting and running their own bank. The sale of African bank in 1995 is a historical error that must be corrected by current and future generations. Our country is in dire need of institutions that are established and managed by the black majority for their own benefit.
There still exist a vacuum in the financial services landscape of a commercial bank that is owned and managed by black South Africans with an acute understanding of of the financial needs of the black community. We urge the government to work together with institutions such as NAFCOC to accelerate the economic transformation program in favour of the black majority. In addition, the origins of black economic empowerment can be traced back to NAFCOC which in 1990, at one of its conferences, published Resolutions 3,4,5,6 as a blueprint for economic transformation post the 1994 era. On NAfCOC's 50th birthday, the business community, government and other interested parties should reflect on these resolutions to see how far we have progressed in implementing them.
Lastly, I would also like to urge NAFCOC to continue advocating for the interests of the small, micro, medium enterprise sector and black business in general over the next 50 years, while learning from the lessons of the past 50 years. With the establishment of the Small Business Development Department as a fully fledged ministry, of which NAFCOC was very instrumental in its conceptualisation, there will now be closer focus on the SMME sector as we believe that small businesses are the engines of economic growth and job creation. The success of this new ministry is dependent on the valuable input from organisations such as NAFCOC and we look forward to a closer co-operation between NAFCOC and government in the next 50 years.
Mr Richard Maponya (Inaugural President of NAFCOC)
(This is the foreword of A Legacy of Perseverance – 50 Years of Leadership in Business by professor Kwandiwe Kondlo. Cost: R225, Publisher: KMM Review Publishing, Page Extent: 154 (including photographs), Format: Soft Paperback, Publication Date: October 2014)