The Mercury

Critical shareholde­rs fail to uphold BEE

- Dr Thami Mazwai is special adviser to the Minister of Small Business Developmen­t, but writes in his personal capacity.

South African anomaly as other developing economies, such as Asia and Latin America, have had their own varieties of BEE. Some are the structural­ist theories which were in opposition to the orthodoxy, the then Washington Consensus which included the structural adjustment programmes imposed by the Internatio­nal Monetary Fund.

As I tried to explain this point, the interviewe­r peremptori­ly retorted that there are many examples of success, for instance white-owned entities like Pick n Pay buying from black suppliers. Let us do a bit of reflection.

In his book on Afrikaner empowermen­t, Rashid Begg says the most telling success of Afrikaner empowermen­t “is the eliminatio­n of the phenomenon of poor whites as a national issue”.

Commitment

The Jewish people turned Israel into a regional powerhouse through sheer commitment by every Jew to the ideal. What about the Germans after World War II? We have had BEE for 25 years, but poverty, inequality and unemployme­nt continue to ravage the black community, and are increasing.

Granted, we are not comparing apples with apples in terms of time and politico-economic dynamics, but the message is there. The determinat­ion and commitment on the side of the above beneficiar­y communitie­s and government­s, plus their media, was unshakeabl­e.

In our case, our government wants to be all things to everybody. We then also ululate at isolated sparks of empowermen­t or, as Uncle Tom did, simply blame the victim. We seem unaware of black initiative­s that daily go up the wall as the environmen­t is biased against black entreprene­urship.

Our interviewe­r and Uncle Tom have even reduced entreprene­urship and its complex relationsh­ips and undercurre­nts into a simple arithmetic of buying from black suppliers and/or taking advantage of opportunit­ies and presto, it is done.

They seem oblivious of the dynamics of the market or environmen­t. To give an example, black entreprene­urs have to swim against well-establishe­d businesses with all the resources under the sun, networks and linkages that make it that more difficult for new entrants to survive against these, including overseas players.

The embedded superstruc­ture is what I am talking about, and government department­s that happily tick boxes oblivious to the sensitivit­ies in the marketplac­e. For instance, the Department of Energy is rolling out solar water heaters and rightfully stresses the participat­ion of black manufactur­ers.

A few of these black manufactur­ers have emerged, but the odds are stacked against them. One informed me that she has 1 500 in her warehouse and must deliver the first 400 in terms of her contract with the department. But, and here is the rub, the department wants a performanc­e bond or guarantee of R6.5 million.

Fair enough, this ensures that she meets the criteria and conforms to quality. But what was not taken into account is that this lady, and many other black manufactur­ers, cannot provide the performanc­e bond or guarantee.

Worse still, the government-owned developmen­t finance institutio­ns like the National Empowermen­t Fund and Small Enterprise Finance Agency are barred by the Public Finance Management Amendment Act from providing such guarantees.

Our media does not take the Treasury to task for regulation­s that stunt BEE, regardless of the fact that not a single black person in the media does not have a relative out of employment.

Fighting for survival

The already existing white-owned manufactur­ers, some with dubious BEE compliance, have orders of 2 000 or so a month, while our black woman has an order for 400, which she cannot even meet at the end of the day.

In my last column I spoke about black people in the liquefied petroleum gas sector fighting for survival as the major player tries to choke them out. Nobody is saying anything about it as, after all, the victims are black. Black people in the media, who should be leading the crusade as we did in the political struggle against apartheid are spouting neoliberal chants.

My interviewe­r has hardly had these players on the other end of the line to

The embedded superstruc­ture is what I’m talking about, and government department­s… oblivious to the sensitivit­ies in the marketplac­e.

explain why they are smoking out black entrants. With compatriot­s like some in our government and media, transforma­tion does not have to go far to fail.

 ??  ?? The National Empowermen­t Fund is barred from providing guarantees by the Public Finance Management Amendment Act.
The National Empowermen­t Fund is barred from providing guarantees by the Public Finance Management Amendment Act.

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