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What is good and what is bad about B-BBEE

I guess the good bit is that under the new codes, any enterprise that’s got a turnover of less than R10m is automatically Level 4 and any enterprise that is at least 51% black owned with a turnover of less than R50m is automatically Level 2. The same company is Level 1 if 100% black owned.

So that takes care of about 95% of all South African enterprises (my estimate). Then why on earth do we need B-BBEE Codes at all?

Just tell us what your black ownership is and we’ll give you the corresponding points.

That’s all the good news.

Now what’s bad about B-BBEE? Well, in my view, it ain’t B-BBEE any more! B-BBEE means Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment. It all started way back as BEE, Black Economic Empowerment and that was all about black ownership. Uncle Tokyo and Uncle Cyril did very nicely, thank you and a lot of other lesser mortals sold their colour for shares.

Then up came Broad-Based. Now that was a very different kettle of fish! Sure, you still scored points for having black ownership and top management, but also for employing black people, training your black staff, buying from black owned enterprises, helping other black businesses and helping black people and communities. Despite the fact that the codes were very badly written, I embraced this vision and found that we hit Level 1 without having to change anything that we were already doing.

Now we’ve got the new codes. They come into effect on 1 May 2015, except that any enterprise (unless falling within a sector) can adopt them now – I guess that would be the 95% that I referred to above. They belittle all of the broad base and make ownership the big deal again. So although this time the wording is so convoluted that you might be fooled into thinking differently, the bottom line is “Bye bye B-BBEE, welcome back BEE”

And come on, we’re 21 year’s into the new South Africa. That’s a whole generation! If we haven’t transformed by now, then is that the fault of ancient history or are we seeing “Animal Farm” (George Orwell) being played out for real?

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