What is BEE
Komorebi Post: Post Apartheid the new government launched a BEE programme, backed by legislation in 2003, of affirmative employment action to attempt to redress the balance of blacks versus whites working. BEE was Initially aimed at larger companies and corporations. The attempt to do this was justified by a report brought out in 2001 which showed how the blacks were virtually unrepresented in the upper management levels of any of the larger corporations.
By affirmative employment action under the BEE rules the government attempted to redress the balance, whilst also helping the economy, ensuring they believed, that the the demographics of race in the Country were properly represented in, at first, the larger corporations such as Eskom, South African Airways and SABC. These companies were the trail blazers of the BEE policies.
The first failure of the policy
Between 2003 and 2007 little progress was made, despite R 350 million Rand being poured into the project. The strategy was heavily criticised for benefitting a very small number people. Very few blacks had benefitted at all from the new rules and the huge majority had failed to see any improvement in their employment prospects.
The policy was not working in the way it had been envision, in-fact it was being heavily criticised by those it was supposed to help. Ordinary blacks trying to find work saw a few others making millions from the policy, the commentary was that nothing had changed under the new government.
The then President Zuma had also ensured that the corruption he presided over had allowed the majority of the government procurement processes had been taken into his control. So the BEE benefit in this area was being directed towards his favourites, the Guptas.
Broad – Based BEE
In 2007 the criteria of the BEE Policy changed to draw in smaller companies, in an attempt to spread the benefit of the affirmative employment policy wider. White people in South Africa were now being positively discriminated against for jobs. This lead to much complaint by this now minority group but the government turned deaf ears to this. The vast majority of young black people were still unemployed approximately 35% of blacks between the ages of 18 to 35 years old have never worked.
Another revamp for BEE
So by 2013 new and revised codes of practice had been prepared this expanded the Policy in an attempt to extend the financial support for the larger population of unemployed blacks.
The three areas that the new codes where intended to extend the legislation too, were; ownership, employment equality and preferential procurement.
This has resulted in smaller company’s being drawn into the net and having to comply with new BEE rules. Many of these companies find it nearly impossible to remain fully compliant. There is still a huge lack of experienced and qualified black people available to fill the jobs.
This has caused noticeably , in the municipal areas such as education, a dropping of standards in an effort to comply.
How SME’s struggle to comply.
Interviewing the owner of a small manufacturing Company in Cape Town who now has to deal with compliance with the new rules, he told me he is at his “ wits end with chasing around trying to find enough black machine operatives.” He believes that the enforcement officers would rather shut him down that allow him to trade without compliance but there are no skilled operatives to be found anywhere. He laments, “To employ unskilled labour would be disastrous for the company and dangerous for the workforce, someone will be seriously injured or killed and then it will be my fault. “
This is a view echoed throughout the business community . Plenty of workers but no skills. Broad -Based BEE has a long way to go still and the young black unemployed are still waiting, in their millions.
The Minister for Trade and Industry In 2014 Dr Robert Davies stated that the policy had 6 to 10 year targets, in 2019 it seems time may be running out.