Transformation can’t be captured

2016-11-20 06:39
Thulani Ntshuntshe, whose enterprising nature led him to start his own business. Picture: Eugene Goddard

Thulani Ntshuntshe, whose enterprising nature led him to start his own business. Picture: Eugene Goddard

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Delivering the memorial lecture of the life and times of OR Tambo, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe mentioned that “there is a problem when the wealth of our country is not benefiting black South Africans”.

He was alluding to the State of Capture report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela, and mentioned how crucial this was in the face of South Africa’s challenges, particularly relating to transformation.

He said that we cannot take our wealth, give it to the Guptas and call it black economic empowerment (BEE).

The process of transforming South Africa has been an uphill battle since the dawn of democracy.

Facing intransigent white-owned companies that refuse to change, and now the possible threat of a predator state that seeks to take the country’s wealth and place it in foreign hands while benefiting some elitist black people is against the spirit of transformation.

Some people complain about white monopoly capital, but seem happy to allow a company owned by foreigners and a few politically connected individuals to monopolise certain sectors solely through contracts dished out by government and state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

This action is tantamount to trying to break down an unjust system on the one side, only to build another one on the other.

If this is allowed, when will black people on the ground be the true custodians of the wealth of this country and how long will it take for us to break down another unjust system?

Black people cannot be seen as aiding and abetting the handover of our economy to foreigners while a few become filthy rich.

This makes the process of transformation more arduous than it already is.

It makes it nearly impossible to convince white-owned companies to share their ill-gotten spoils from apartheid.

BEE in its original form was found wanting simply because it was designed in a manner that benefited a few fortunate black people who were deemed worthy because of their struggle credentials.

The system has since evolved to focus on transformation more broadly, with all-round good results if the broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) legislation is implemented correctly. We cannot allow this process to be derailed if we are hoping for an equitable future.

The codes are clear in terms of who the beneficiaries of BBBEE are.

It defines “black people” as African, coloured or Indian persons who are natural persons and are citizens of the republic by birth or descent; or are citizens by naturalisation before the commencement date of the Constitution; or became citizens after the commencement date of the Constitution, but who, for the apartheid policy that had been in place prior to that date, would have been entitled to acquire citizenship by naturalisation prior to that date.

In other words, it’s not the Guptas or any other dark-skinned foreign-owned company trying to capitalise on BBBEE.

To avoid any possible confusion: Foreign-owned companies which started their businesses off the boom of South Africa’s economy in the early years after democracy, do not qualify as BBBEE recipients, regardless of the colour of their skin. For large corporates and SOEs to farm out large contracts to these companies goes directly against the spirit of the codes as it does nothing to bring about transformation for the people who suffered while fighting for liberation.

It further sidetracks the issue of a non-transformed economy that is currently 80% owned by white people.

The goals of transformation are hard to achieve when these tactics to undermine the intention of the legislation are constantly being fought. This parochial mind-set is delaying the inevitable. Transformation needs to happen in order for our economy to grow.

At the Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals Financial Services Sector Conference recently, Madonsela said:

“BEE is important. There is no chance that the country will be stable without BEE of some sort. There is no chance we could achieve a stable democracy; as long as there is injustice somewhere, we can’t have sustainable peace.

"BBBEE ensures the promotion of equality and the prevention of unfair discrimination. But the reality is that the past still weighs heavily on us. This is especially true for those excluded from opportunities in the past.”

Let us commit to putting our efforts into transforming and growing our economy instead of focusing our energy on futile circumvention tactics.

Kern-Thomas is a director of SA Consulting Projects, a transformation and empowerment company owned by black women

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Read more on:    gwede mantashe  |  thuli madonsela  |  state of capture report

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