The Black Business Council stood by Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, maintaining that she was right to prioritise Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment policy when dispensing aid to businesses in the tourism sector rocked by the Covid—19 novel coronavirus.
The pandemic, which hit in March, prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a national lockdown. This brought various businesses to a standstill, but because the lockdown mean movement within and between borders was restricted, tourism ground to a halt as well.
Union Solidarity and AfriForum have lodged a court battle against a determination by the Department of Tourism stipulating that black-owned tourism businesses should be at the top of the pecking ordered when it came to financial assistance from government to soften the blow to the sector.
Last week the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria dismissed the application by Solidarity and AfriForum, and that Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment policy could not be overturned or ignored during the health crisis. Solidarity and AfriForum have indicated their intentions to take the legal fight to the Constitutional Court.
The joint statement by the Department of Tourism and the Black Business Council said the pandemic was coupled with "a growing toxic and skewed narrative" which it said sought to undermine the legitimacy of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment laws in South Africa.
"Over the last few days, we have seen attempts by some in our country, who try to use the current crisis, to delegitimise government and policies like B-BBEE scoring as part of criteria for relief funding for distressed SMMEs," the statement said.
The statement said the Constitution of South Africa and other laws were not to be suspended during the lockdown and that B-BBEE remained law, not be undermined.
Broad-Basked Black Economic Empowerment Commissioner Zodwa Ntuli said the policy was not designed to exclude established businesses or South Africans but to level the playing field of a once-unequal economy.
"If BEE is based on the Constitution, it cannot be anti-white. The whole purpose of introducing the policy based on equality is because black people were excluded," said Ntuli.
In the statement Kubayi-Ngubane said government adopted the B-BBEE policy in an effort to address the divisions of past and to work towards creating a fair and just society for the majority of South Africans.
BBC president Sandile Zungu said South Africa needed to "strike the reset button post-Covid-19" and ensure a new and transformed economy is born out of it. He urged government to unashamedly assist the previously disadvantaged who require assistance to become entrepreneurs.
Chief Executive of AfriForum, Kallie Kriel, the group decided to approach the Constitutional Court as the small tourism businesses owned by members of minority groups are in urgent need of assistance.
He compared the continual of B-BBEE policy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic to "the economic murder of minorities".