By Thembekile Gatya, Candidate Empowerment Advisor at Mindworx Consulting
Yes, I am the beneficiary of a programme. The programme has been criticised for being ineffective, some have labelled it reverse racism. Initially, I was not aware of the benefit of this programme until I was in a position where the realities and history behind it were presented to me: when I was recently appointed as a Junior BEE Consultant. This programme or policy is Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment.
It has been distinctly defined as ¨the capacity of women and men to participate in, contribute to and benefit from growth processes in ways that recognise the value of their contributions, respect their dignity and make it possible to negotiate a fairer distribution of the benefits of growth¨. From this, the most crucial term that highlights impact and the significance of empowerment is growth. It can be attached not only to an individual´s value but to our country´s economic value through growth too.
According to the National Growth Plan, proper B-BBEE implementation is one of the forces that could – and should – accelerate and fast track growth in South Africa. According to Mail & Guardian, at the beginning of the Act’s inception, the commission saw a need for ¨the economy to be transformed to unleash its growth potential.¨ So it’s clear to me that this programme is not political but economic. This can be seen through the aim to redress the inequalities of Apartheid by giving certain previously disadvantaged groups of South African citizens economic privileges previously not available to them.
Through the adoption of other policies and plans such as the National Development Plan, National Growth Path and Industrial Policy Action Plan, the Act was amended to be in line with the objectives of the national vision. It is from this that B-BBEE was initiated.
I believe that it’s safe to say that progress in true empowerment has been achieved despite its many challenges that seek to undermine its effectiveness. People like me have been given an opportunity to participate in the country’s economy not only through employment but also the education afforded to me through income redistributed to allow access for black children to quality higher education and training. I have been privy to, a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives and therefore achieving our desired objectives.
Ultimate need for empowerment
“Our country requires an economy that can meet the needs of all our economic citizens – our people and their enterprises – in a sustainable manner,” the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) says in its BEE strategy document. This suggests that the fundamental priority of the Department through this Act, is to tap into the economy and its growth. The South African community is recognised as the most unequal society in the world, therefore there has to be a measure to counteract this problem through economy-widening. The New South Africa is made up of societies characterised by entrenched gender inequality and racially or ethnically defined wealth disparities are not likely to be socially and politically stable, particularly as economic growth can easily exacerbate these inequalities.
According to the Economic Development Department: ¨Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) aims to ensure that the economy is structured and transformed to enable the meaningful participation of the majority of its citizens and to further create capacity within the broader economic landscape at all levels through skills development, employment equity, socio economic development, preferential procurement, enterprise development, especially small and medium enterprises, promoting the entry of black entrepreneurs into the mainstream of economic activity, and the advancement of co-operatives¨. Therefore, without empowerment, the national vision for development and economic growth cannot be attained which then implies that society remains divided, poor gets poorer and the rich gets richer.
It is said that ultimately empowerment policy will continue to drive reform of the economy, but entrepreneurship and skills remain the missing links. The DTI highlighted that “As such, this strategy stresses a BEE process that is associated with growth, development and enterprise development, and not merely the redistribution of existing wealth.” Which means that there has to be provision for employment, small businesses, upliftment of existing enterprises and consequently disbandment of inequity. And my question is: where is our government and its policy makers here?