Johannesburg - National Empowerment Fund CEO Philisiwe Mthethwa has defended the decision to fund a high-end Johannesburg boutique, saying the retail sector needed transformation, The New Age reported on Thursday.
"The past four days has seen transformation put on trial, perhaps because some people do not see the need for women empowerment, perhaps because some do not see the need for transformation in the retail sector," Mthethwa was quoted as saying.
She was reportedly speaking at a Black Business Council (BBC) conference in Midrand.
According to The New Age, she said the people who supported the retail sector in South Africa were black, yet the sector remained white, and more black people needed to participate on the business side.
"I look forward to the day when the work of black people will be greeted with trust and appreciation, and not with instinctive suspicion of wrongdoing and impropriety that has come to characterise reaction to endeavours by black people."
The NEF approved R34.1m in financing to Ndalo Luxury Ventures (NLV) to establish the Luminance boutique, which sells luxury clothing and related goods, in Hyde Park, Johannesburg.
The boutique is run by media mogul Khanyi Dhlomo, her mother Venetia, and businessperson Judy Dlamini.
In a statement, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said he had asked for a detailed report from the NEF on the funding of NLV.
Probe gains support
The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) on Wednesday has welcomed the probe.
Sacci said in a statement that it was critical to ensure that the funding was in line with the NEF's mandate.
"The fact that the funds are public necessitates transparency and accountability."
The Cosatu-affiliated Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu) is also outraged at the finance deal.
"We are of the view that this is completely inappropriate in a country where the main challenges are to tackle our triple crisis, of poverty, inequality and unemployment," said André Kriel, Sactwu's general secretary.
On Wednesday, the DA said it would write to Davies asking that the report be tabled in parliament.
"Providing financing to wealthy individuals for luxury boutiques that cater for the super-rich is anything but broad-based and essentially amounts to 'empowering the empowered'," DA MP Wilmot James said.