What is the purpose of BBBEE?

Three interviews I have conducted recently on my show, “Contemporary Business” on 1485am, with influential Black people in business have revealed a truth that’s worth noting. There is a very firm line drawn in the sand on the one side by people like Herman Mashabe who are self-made in a time when it was impossible for a Black man to become successful in business. They defied the odds and succeeded despite those odds. On the other hand there are those who have preferred to ride on the misery of Black people in South Africa, opportunistically clawing at legislative leg-up’s and networks within which they have access to preferential funding and tenders. Hard work to these people is less about learning a business or Industry from the ground up and more about working and manipulating social and political factors to their benefit. Success means making it because of colour rather than sweat, talent or skill. What strikes me further is that someone like Mashabe sees the benefit of working with people of all colours while the other group will only be satisfied by a complete Ethnic Cleansing of White people off of the face of South Africa’s economic landscape. They clearly and vociferously distrust and hate White people and see BBBEE legislation as being a permanent part of the SA economic framework, in perpetuity.

All of the relevant interviews with Herman Mashabe, my interview with Dr Anthea Jeffrey from the Institute of Race Relations, and a discussion between Given Mkhara from Power FM and Palesa Mzolo from the National Empowerment Fund can be found on the Facebook page, “Contemporary Business”.

What was amazing to me was that there were only references twice to actual empirical research done on BBBEE. Dr Jeffries, quoting research done profiling current ownership of stock on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange quotes current figures revealing that as things stand today there is almost parity, i.e. equal ownership between Black and White investors of stock on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange with the balance of ownership reverting to foreign-owned control.

Listening to the podcast you will hear that Given Mkhari say “Rubbish” in the face of the research showing that Whites no-longer dominate the economy to the extent that even our Government typifies the situation. However he offers nothing whatsoever to substantiate or backup his response except pure indignation and contempt for anything disproving his view that Whites are still in control of the economy. Palesa Mzolo however attempts a response saying that when you strip out Pension Fund ownership, the real “Black” ownership level is more like 5%, therefore revealing that, in her opinion ownership in South Africa is still in “White” hands. What she says however doesn’t make sense given that historical research showing White ownership is also largely constituted of Pension Fund and Investment Fund ownership. Why is what’s good for the White Goose, not equally applicable to the Black Gander you may ask?

While a brave attempt by Palesa, and obviously a strategic response in the face of the research showing that both the Government and the Black Business Council are factually wrong to say that Whites still overwhelmingly control the economy in this country, I think it was a fallacious one given that every one of the existing pension funds have a majority of Black Office Bearers making those decisions to invest and therefore those investments should legitimately be counted as representative of “Black” interests.

My question however is a little different. Have you been into a Pick n Pay, a Checkers, a Woolworths, or an Edgars recently? Have you dealt with Telkom, Eskom, City Power or the City of Joburg? Have you been into any of our banks or tried to get through to an Insurance company recently? Do you see, hear or interact with many “White” people? If you ask to speak to a Manager are they White? Can there be any dispute that White’s have been cleared, cleansed and eradicated from our economy, on the ground? Every Bursary Scheme, every Internship opportunity is devised and directed away from White beneficiaries. The public and private companies making all of the decisions in our economy have boards properly representative of Black people. So how can it be alleged that South Africa’s economy is still in the hands of “Whites”? Even though that is an inconvenient question posed to the Black Business Council in one of my interviews, no answer is forthcoming.

Take one of the worst indicators of transformation. The fact that the Department of Transport recently revealed that only 25% of road accidents and deaths are caused today by “White” Drivers and that the balance, 75% of these devastating results are caused by “Black” drivers on our roads. Even in accident statistics “Whites” have almost been ethnically cleansed from the face of society in SA, let-alone out of the economy. How can we not be closer to parity than is being suggested by Government, the Black Business Council, Given Mkhari and Palesa Mzolo, if the majority of the cars on our roads are now owned by Black people according to our own Government? So, why does Given Mkhari say “Rubbish”? Why is he so adamant that anything showing that we are transforming at an advanced rate in this country must be nonsensical?

Is this a little bit like Malusi Gigaba steadfastly refusing to change the Visa Regulations despite anyone with sense seeing the truth for the woods? “We have the strategy to discredit and demonise anything White including the freedom to travel from and to SA and we will stick to that strategy, even if it means destroying our most successful economic segment, and thousands of jobs in the process”.

Inevitably the conclusion in trying to understand what the motivation of these naysayers is has to result in the impression that these people know they will be exposed acknowledging that BBBEE has worked, that it has done its job and that SA has become a normalized society. Not because everyone earns the same amount of money and lives in the same suburbs side-by-side, but because normal economic forces and abnormally skewed social advantages in-favor of the majority, now persist in South Africa.

One could argue finally that what is truly “Rubbish” is that this “false” Black Middle Class which has so rapidly sprung up in South Africa, supported to 90% by employment, especially deployment in our Public Sector, is a sustainable bubble. Can everyone in this country work for Government, forever?