ANC reaffirms commitment to B-BBEE, slams DA for opting to look at alternatives
The ANC has labelled the DA’s decision to dump its support for broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) as "extremely disingenuous" and an excuse to resist transformation.
The DA confirmed to News24 over the weekend that it had taken a decision to seek a "broader economic empowerment framework", claiming B-BBEE was simply just not working and only sought to benefit the politically-connected elite.
The development also saw different senior leaders in the DA engaged in public spats over the issue, with some claiming it had not taken such a decision. A statement clarifying the party’s position confirmed the decision on Monday.
"The ANC is neither shocked nor surprised by the DA’s flip-flopping on B-BBEE. We have long exposed the DA as a party committed to defending white privilege and preserving the status quo," ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said in a statement on Tuesday.
The governing party reiterated its "consistent and unambiguous position" on B-BBEE, saying it was part of the struggle to transform South Africa’s economy to enable it to serve the needs and aspirations of all its citizens.
"We are pursuing this path because we are aware that the democratic breakthrough would be meaningless if it is not accompanied with a vibrant and growing economy that can benefit all our people," said Mabe.
The ANC spokesperson said the party understood the DA’s resistance to B-BBEE, questioning how beneficiaries of "economic apartheid" were expected to support policy measures that sought to broaden access to economic opportunities for the majority.
'Race will continue to be a key factor'
Mabe, however, admitted there were issues with the policy and how it had been implemented over the years.
"We are also concerned that some of the benefits and opportunities brought by broad-based black economic empowerment have not gone to their intended beneficiaries as a result of the scourge of fronting," he said, but added that the ANC was encouraged by efforts it had seen by its deployees in the public sector to address this.
"Fronting defeats and undermines all our efforts at deracialising our economy and undoing the economic inequalities of our ugly past," he added.
Mabe said everyone, including the DA, should be worried that challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality remained a largely black problem.
"Race will continue to be a key factor in all our transformation efforts. Building a truly non-racial and equal society will require deliberate and systematic efforts," he said.
The DA's head of policy, Gwen Ngwenya, confirmed that the party's highest policy decision-making body had taken the decision in July. However, federal council chairperson James Selfe disputed this.
In a desperate bid to clear up the confusion, Ngwenya and Selfe later issued a joint statement saying the policy had "dismally failed" and had "doomed millions to the disparity of unemployment and enriched the politically connected elite".
The two acknowledge the country's history that continued to disadvantage the majority. They also committed to advancing empowerment for the disadvantaged, but argued for a society in which race was not a factor when it came to opportunities.
"We have argued that empowerment policies need to become less race-focused over time, as the policies begin to do their work in redressing the legacy of apartheid," said Selfe and Ngwenya.
'Diversity is not equated with demographic representivity'
News24 is in possession of the 152-page document titled, Vula: The 'open' economy, open for business. The document was presented by Ngwenya at a federal executive committee where economic policies were discussed, in a bid to sharpen the party's offering to South Africans ahead of the 2019 national elections.
The paper is explicit that the party should dump the policy and replace it with an environment social governance (ESG) index that removes race from the score card.
"In addition, [the DA] will scrap the B-BBEE policy and replace it with an ESG empowerment index backed by a pact of inclusive empowerment," the document states.
It also states that quotas currently in place should be dropped, and that B-BBEE had created insiders and outsiders.
"[The] DA empowerment policy would seek to be comprehensive by recognising a wide range of voluntary environmental, social and governance disclosures and interventions, of which ownership schemes and diversification could be a part, but with no minimum requirements," the document states.
The paper further states that, "due to our belief that people are individuals, and are not racial or gender envoys, diversity is not equated with demographic representivity".
"Equality of opportunity, i.e. lowering barriers to entry and a receptive attitude towards difference will give rise to diversity that is a product of people's choices, rather than a product of predetermined targets or quotas."