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Finance minister Enoch Godongwana. Picture: BUSINESS DAY/FREDDY MAVUNDA
Finance minister Enoch Godongwana. Picture: BUSINESS DAY/FREDDY MAVUNDA

Finance minister Enoch Godongwana is wrong. The critics of BEE are right. It is synonymous with corruption.

Why? Why can’t we have ability, honesty and race quotas? Are these mutually exclusive? Yes, they are. When employing an individual or a company, one needs criteria. One needs to measure. Ability (proven ability to do a high level job) is the criterion used throughout the world, especially the rich world.

Ability is fairly easy to measure. Candidates must have a track record. Yes, mistakes are made, but there is no better criterion for high office or contracts, whether in the state, the private sector or the nongovernmental organisation (NGO) sector.

Now let’s consider BEE. This equates to race quotas or set-asides for jobs or contracts. While in theory one can invoke ability together with colour, this is not possible in the real world. Introducing race or colour as a criterion ipso facto politicises the decision.

Politicians will inevitably brush aside any attempt to apply the criteria of competence or ability. Politics will always trump technical or managerial criteria. The actual ability of the candidate will have  little or no relevance. However, what will be relevant is the ability of the candidate to deliver votes and/or kickbacks to the political power brokers.

Godongwana cannot have his cake and eat it. Use race as the  criterion, and what you get is “it’s our time to eat”. Use ability and you get a better life for all. If he or his party can’t or won’t see this, the voters will in 2024.

Willem Cronje, Cape Town

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