PROTESTING black business owners blockaded the Port Elizabeth CBD yesterday morning, trying to force the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality to share a cut of its multibillion-rand budget for development projects.
Traffic flow in Govan Mbeki Avenue came to a standstill as the Nelson Mandela Bay Black Business Forum parked nine trucks between the Feather Market Centre and the public library.
Forum president Litemba Singapi said black businesses had had enough of the municipality giving business only to white-owned companies. "These trucks sit unused in [owners'] yards. It has been like that for years.”
Singapi said the truck owners were not working because they had been sidelined for projects in the city.
"Our municipality should start now to treat black people with respect, not only use them as voters but start considering black-owned businesses in the mainstream economy of this region.
"We are saying the time has passed for black business people to wait until a suitable white-owned company or contractor has been appointed and use our blackowned companies as labourers, as if we have no value.”
Singapi said it was no wonder so few companies listed on the JSE were black-owned.
"It's because our people are not given proper support in the downstream opportunities of the country.”
Nafto spokesman Williams Vela said black businesses wanted economic transformation. "We are tired of being the protector of the white economy.”
The businessmen also want the municipality to have a business desk to cater for all businesses, a database for local companies and action to be taken on RDP houses converted to businesses without rezoning.
Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said the municipality's budget was in fact paying more white-owned businesses for services than black-owned business.
"Expenditure reflects that the budget split towards black business is considerably lower than that [for] paid services from their white counterparts.
"As a result, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality invited the business leaders into our offices today and proactively discussed ways of dealing with this important economic development matter.”