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‘Varsity favouring white companies’

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“The memorandum of grievances was tabled by the Frances Baard Business Forum (FBBF) to Professor (Yunus) Ballim and members of the university staff,"

Sol Plaatje University

THE FRANCES Baard Business Forum has pointed fingers at the Sol Plaatje University for allegedly favouring white-owned companies, predominantly from outside the Northern Cape.

The Frances Baard Business Forum said that while the university had hosted a business forum recently, it had failed to respond to any of the grievances contained in a memorandum handed to the university earlier this year.

“The memorandum of grievances was tabled by the Frances Baard Business Forum (FBBF) to Professor (Yunus) Ballim and members of the university staff,” Marcus Banga, FBBF secretary, said in a statement yesterday.

“The key message in that memorandum of grievances was that we, as the black business community in Frances Baard, are tired of being marginalised by Sol Plaatje University (SPU) around black economic empowerment when there were clear and documented commitments made by SPU to government through the national Ministry of Higher Education.”

Banga added that the FBBF refused to be left on the sidelines when SPU committed that there would be a significant stake allocated to black empowerment companies during the construction of the university.

“None of those commitments have been met. Except for a few crumbs, all construction and consulting work has been given to white companies, predominantly from outside of the Northern Cape,” he alleged.

According to Banga, the FBBF raised the issue regarding the deliberate marginalisation of black business in the construction or provision, amongst others, of student accommodation and the deliberate allocation of services contracts to companies from outside of the Northern Cape even when there are fully capable companies in the Northern Cape.

“The silence of the predominantly black university council on what we blatantly termed the racism practised by the university management is showing. The silence of our provincial government is tantamount to a betrayal of our black business community and the historically oppressed people in general,” Banga stated. “The fact that the university is hosting this new forum is telling within itself.”

In its response, SPU spokesperson Kashini Maistry forwarded a letter, dated March 29, 2019, sent to the FBBF in response to the memorandum received.

In his letter of response to the FBBF, Professor Ballim, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of SPU, stated that as the university was not an organ of state it was therefore not governed by legislation relevant to procurement by organs of state.

He added that irrespective of this, SPU had provided for economic empowerment as part of the Policy on Supply Chain Management for Goods and Services.

“This, however, is only one of the factors that are considered, together with price, quality, etc. SPU has always recognised its responsibility to facilitate the development of local and/or black-owned companies, which is indeed an integral component of our internal strategic goals.”

The university further provided a document outlining more detailed information regarding the local and/or black-owned companies that have benefited from SPU’s development initiatives in recent years.

“SPU remains committed to continue such development initiatives amongst local and/or black-owned businesses where the opportunity arises,” Ballim added.

He also pointed out that SPU was committed to continue communications with the FBBF going forward and would make the FBBF aware of any procurement opportunities that might arise.