White women would be the biggest losers once the broad-based black economic empowerment amendment bill was enacted as expected early next year, BEE specialist Andile Tlhoaele said on Monday. The proposed changes meant they would no longer be entitled to benefit from empowerment programmes as has been the case till now. This represents a victory for the black business lobby, which has been fighting for their exclusion.
White women would no longer be regarded as legitimate beneficiaries of black economic empowerment once imminent new laws come into effect, a member of a subcommittee of the presidential BEE advisory committee, Andile Tlhoaele, said in an interview.
The Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Amendment Bill eliminates all white people including the disabled. “The definition of black people is now clear and aligned with the Constitution,” Tlhoaele said.
There has been widespread criticism that white women were benefitting disproportionately from black economic empowerment with their black counterparts relegated to the bottom rung of the drive to redress societal inequalities. The Black Management Forum has been leading the calls for white women to be excluded after it came to light that they were the fastest rising category of people in terms of employment equity.
Tlhoaele said the inclusion of white women had been abused. This had defeated the aim of true inclusivity.
Now that the B-BBEE Act would take precedence over other legislation relating empowerment, enterprises would no longer be able to claim employment equity points for white women. Employment equity is a key element of the B-BBEE scorecard used to rate empowerment credentials.
The Employment Equity Act still has white women as a designated group for affirmative action purposes.
Tlhoaele said proposed changes to BEE legislation would go a long in ensuring that growing numbers of previously disadvantaged South Africans were drawn into the mainstream economy.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies gazetted the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Amendment Bill two weeks ago and gave members of the public 60 days to make submissions. Another highlight of the amendments has been the criminalisation of the practice of misrepresenting BEE credentials, known as fronting.
In terms of the proposed amendments, those involved in fronting could face jail terms of up to 10 years or be fined 2%-10% of annual turnover depending on the seriousness of the incident. In addition, contracts awarded to guilty companies could be cancelled.
Further, the amended law requires the government and its agencies to comply. The auditor-general will audit and report on BEE compliance for government departments.
Stock exchange-listed companies will be required to submit annual reports to the B-BBEE Commission, which the amendments propose. The commission’s function would include supervising adherence to the act.
It would further receive and investigate complaints relating to B-BBEE, and maintain a registry of major empowerment transactions. “The proposals are a bold move and demonstrate government’s commitment to ensure successful implementation of BEE,” Tlhoaele said. “The Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Amendment Bill closes many loopholes in the current BEE Act – a move that is long overdue.”