The public could be excused for thinking that Lindiwe Zulu spends her time stalking the aisles of the National Assembly, swatting away any presidential detractors.
Her fiery ripostes to any would-be verbal assassins of President Jacob Zuma, her body strained over her parliamentary bench, has become a staple for those tuning in to the open warfare now commonplace in the chamber.
Zulu has been at the forefront of trying to resolve the crisis of unity in the ANC, while simultaneously having to deal with the not-so-insignificant matter of starting up a ministry critical to progress in a stagnant economy. Prosperous economies, both developed and developing, are driven predominantly (more than 90%) by small business. In South Africa, small business’s contribution is 47%.
Established two years ago, this was the first year the new ministry could be properly assessed and did admirably in staffing various units and getting several initiatives off the ground. It set itself lofty standardsuy and in some respects managed to fulfil these.
The ministry’s Small Enterprise Funding Agency led the way by disbursing R3.2-billion to more than 200 000 businesses. But its projects specifically targeting youth and women never got off the ground because of budgetary and bureaucratic constraints.
For Zulu, who has been especially strident on women’s rights, this can be regarded as a colossal failure.
There’s also the outstanding matter of Zulu’s adviser, Thami Mazwai, who is “still in the process” of disposing of a 40% shareholding in Mtiya Dynamics, a company that was paid R22-million by the department.
One of the department’s greatest failures was its inability to reform the regulatory framework, including the Small Business Act, which inhibits small business growth and places South Africa at number 55 for its entrepreneurial environment.
All in all, some promising gains have been made but, with South Africa’s economy flirting with junk status and joblessness at the root of so many ills, much more is required from this department.
Zulu and her team will have to show greater ability to argue convincingly for the additional resources small business requires.