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The expectations of the black working class from black executives

Address to Black Management Forum(BFM) National Conference
Blade Nzimande, General Secretary, SACP

South African Communist Party (SACP)

13 October 2005, Johannesburg

SARPN acknowledges the South African Communist Party (SACP) as the source of this document.
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Madam President Nolitha Fakude, BMF executive committee members, delegates, ladies and gentlemen and comrades, let me start by congratulating the BMF for convening it 2005 Annual Conference around this theme. In fact this opens a very important debate that has not fully broached during the first decade of our democracy. It is a subject that has always been close to my heart; the role of the black middle class in South African society in general, and especially in relation to the developmental challenges facing our country.

To contextualize what I want to address today, let me start by referring to an interview I had with your former President, Cde Don Mkhwanazi in the late 1980s as part of my PhD research. During the 1980s, as many of you would know, there were big debates as to which side will the black middle class take in the struggle against apartheid and during the post apartheid period. Some of the questions included whether the black middle class was interested in a thorough-going revolutionary transformation, whether it will side with or against the working class in the post-apartheid period? There were also suspicions within the ranks of the working class about the role of the middle class, as black managers staying in the black townships but working for white corporations in pursuance of the interests of the white capitalist class. In some circles they were seen as sell-outs.

When I posed the question to Cde Don about this contradictory location of black managers in white corporations, he answered back, in his usual big voice, and dismissed the idea that black corporate managers were sell-outs by pointing that they were no different from MK guerillas in the bush, as they were fighting for the same struggle but within the corporations, saying they were 'corporate guerillas'. This ended up being the final title of my PhD thesis: 'The corporate guerillas'. It was a study on the emergence, evolution, and contradictory class location of black human resources practitioners in South African corporations. Perhaps this question still remains as relevant today: Are you corporate guerillas? If so, on whose side are you fighting? I suppose that is the question that this Conference partly seeks to address.

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