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Bee: The Battle of The Races

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Essay title: Bee: The Battle of The Races

It is evident from the media that the current BEE initiatives and deals occurring in South Africa do not only benefit those considered black according to section 1 of the BEE Act. The ANC government is continuously challenged and called to action to repair the damage of the old apartheid regime which has left many black South Africans poorly educated, unemployed and poor. The BEE policy aims to include those previously excluded from participating and benefiting from South Africa’s flourishing economy, mainly black people. One cannot dispute the fact that many advantaged (i.e. not disadvantaged) blacks who were in the right position, have directly benefitted from BEE initiatives based on their race. Government should therefore possibly focus on those who are genuinely underprivileged, irrespective of pigmentation.


April 1994 marked the first democratic elections in South Africa. The newly elected government had massive giants to tackle, including the low income earned by the majority of South Africans, lack of access to basic services and fair distribution of the factors of production (Masito, 2007, p.12). The government had to become the healer to those who were left scarred as a result of being dis-empowered and economically suppressed. In 1994 the ANC government introduced a Black Economic Empowerment policy (BEE) which according to the Department of Trade and Industry aims to speed empowerment of the previously disadvantaged and allow their participation in the economy. Government’s current remedy for the economic illnesses faced by South Africa is as a result of what one might call the Afrikaner Economic Empowerment movement (AEE) that reigned under the apartheid regime. The AEE movement (known as Boerderbond) was a survival mechanism for South African Afrikaners to protect ethnic survival, speed up Afrikaner participation in the economy, prosperity and provide psychological security for the Afrikaner (Masito, 2007, p.1). The AEE thrived on racial supremacy. Recent heated debates have arisen with regards to the present government using the same strategy as was used under apartheid, but in reverse, to benefit the black people of this country. While BEE aims to rectify the wrongs of the past, it has been heavily criticized for being a violation of non-blacks constitutional rights to equality, as many non-black South African citizens are deprived of opportunities because preference has been given to black people.

Definition of the term black

In section 1 of the BEE Act (Collier-Reed & Lehmann, 2006), black economic empowerment is defined as being the economic empowerment of all black people, including women (including all races), workers, youth, people with disabilities and people living in rural areas through socio – economic strategies. In terms of the Act, black people refer to black, coloured and Indian. According to law, employers are allowed to �fairly’ discriminate against persons who do not qualify for affirmative action in favour of those who do. For example, the appointment of a suitably qualified black female rather than a more qualified white male is not discriminatory (Collier-Reed & Lehmann, 2006).

The true situation

Despite government’s good written intentions for the implementation of BEE, economic reality is far removed from those ink marks. South Africa is faced with one of the highest economic inequalities in the world by race and gender (Masito, 2007, p.12). Many black elite business people are riding this BEE wave and exclusively benefitting, despite the policy being aimed at empowering the previously disadvantaged, whom the government recognizes as black people. Eyebrows have also been raised at the implementation of the policy in companies just for the sake of being BEE compliant. The media has even given the impression that black in terms of the policy, refers to pigmentation, despite the BEE Act being clear on the fact that the term black is not restricted to colour. Countless BEE deals have been highlighted in newspapers and magazines, accompanied by pictures of black people, usually Africans. But this does not always imply that only blacks benefit from these BEE deals.

Evidence from the media

On Wednesday, 18 July 2007, the Business Day (“Siyathenga seals empowerment deal for R184m”) reported on a listed property company, namely Siyathenga Property Fund, which embarked on a R184 million empowerment deal with two 100% black owned property consortiums, acquiring altogether 15% of the company. One has to note that the managing director of Siyathenga is a white male, namely Andre van Bulow. The aim of the BEE deal, as expressed by the MD, was to show the company’s commitment to transformation in

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