LETTER: BEE is more akin to blatant elite enrichment
Only a shift away from the arbitrary criterion of skin colour and towards merit, value for money and nonracialism will bring economic empowerment to those who most desperately need it
“BEE” is not and has never been about black economic empowerment. Instead, it is more akin to blatant elite enrichment. It is therefore heartening that Andile Ntingi believes that BEE cannot survive in its current form (“Is BEE here to stay or is it facing its demise?", January 23).
The only viable form an empowerment initiative can take would be to provide equal empowerment to all that are factually disadvantaged, irrespective of the colour of their skin. This is the imperative at the heart of the constitution’s allowances for government preferencing schemes. Section 1(b) of the constitution commits all state machinery to strict nonracialism.
Government has brazenly ignored this constitutional standard by adopting more than 116 race laws (including so-called BEE) since 1994, as shown in the Institute of Race Relations’ (IRR) Index of Race Law at racelaw.co.za.
A 2022 IRR survey shows that only 3% of black South Africans believe BEE is effective and should be a continued priority for government. Earlier research showed that the BEE regime has benefited at most only an elite 14% of blacks, leaving the remaining 86% without additional advantage. Most South Africans prefer an empowerment dispensation that focuses on socioeconomic status, not race.
Ntingi’s proposals to reform BEE would unfortunately not eliminate, or even limit, the wide scope for corruption and waste that characterises the regime today. Only a fundamental shift away from the arbitrary criterion of skin colour and towards merit, value for money and nonracialism will bring economic empowerment to those who most desperately need it today.
Martin van Staden
Institute of Race Relations
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