By Pumla Ncapayi,

CEO, Financial Sector Transformation Council

Is the B-BBEE Advisory Council a genuine instrument to drive transformation, or just another smoke screen illusion? I venture into this question not because of the paucity of opinions on the failures of Black Economic Empowerment to achieve economic redress, but as an appropriate point of reflection by ordinary South Africans who continue to pin their aspirations on the policy.

In considering the appropriate framework for redress, the B-BBEE Act of 2003 and the amendments of 2013 were enacted to establish a legislative framework to support and promote the empowerment and participation of black people in the South African economy. But in truth, they have not.

Since inception, the implementation of B-BBEE is based on a voluntary principle that assumes all stakeholders will comply because “it is the right thing to do” and there is a moral obligation to accelerate the participation of Black people in the economy, especially on the backdrop of decades of Apartheid and colonisation. This assumption requires critical introspection. While corporate South Africa implements through a carefully considered approach the necessary transformation initiatives that seek to have a meaningful impact in the communities they serve, the truth is that transformation through the lens of the ordinary South African remains implausible.

Furthermore, it is my observation that while the goal of economic and social liberation has not shifted, we still have a fragmented approach of implementing policy that does not align with the social indicators of our country.

Consequently, to fulfil the legal mandate outlined in the B-BBEE Act, government considered a B-BBEE Advisory Council to provide guidance and monitor the overall performance of market participants with the view to advance policy recommendations and review the progress of transformation in the economy. Recently, President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed new members to the B-BBEE Advisory Council. This group consists of people with various skills and expertise, and together they have been positioned as a “game changer” in the advancement of the transformation agenda. With this development, the dreams and aspirations of South Africa’s previously disadvantaged – and in many ways currently disadvantaged – citizens fall on the shoulders of this Council as the need for economic and social transformation becomes even more urgent.

Against this background, the B-BBEE Act continues to be a cornerstone for effective and sustainable transformation and as such it is critical for the Advisory Council to probe beneath the surface and initiate uncomfortable conversations to unpack the challenges behind the ideologies of the current legislative framework and its ability to accelerate the pace of transformation.

It’s time that we enforce a legally binding compliance mechanism for B-BBEE which must outlive the terms of respective administrations, governments, ministers as well this Advisory Council.

I believe the time has come to implement innovative measures that will address South Africa’s unique challenges and urge for all elements of the B-BBEE Scorecard to be measured against critical socio-economic indicators.

South Africans have witnessed the power of intentionality from various leaders who have contributed to our political transition. However, to move beyond requires shared responsibility and as such, this new B-BBEE Advisory Council must critically examine the delimitations of the current framework and take steps to rectify the slow, lethargic and at times overtly resistant attitude towards transforming our economy so that all South Africans can have a dignified life.

The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the author and not the views of the FSTC.