Black Economic Empowerment has been hailed as one of the ways to heal the wrongs of our apartheid past, but it appears that something is not going right somewhere, Isaac Moledi reports
It appears that some white companies have a new way of cashing in on the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) windfall: they establish a new enterprise, appoint some black faces and add one or two white directors linked to the mother corporation.
The new entity secures funding in the name of the BEE and later, when some of the black directors question the corporate governance and the other related issues of the BEE company, excuses are formulated and they get hauled before a disciplinary hearing - get suspended and even sacked.
Only the meek survive, those who prefer not to question and continue to cash in from the BEE windfall as if there's nothing wrong.
Take the case of veteran estate agent Thandi Nkosi, of Siweziwe Properties Holdings. Nkosi, like many others, got caught up in this predicament.
They were five employees - Nkosi, Mandla Gumede, George Sango, Tawanda Sibanda and Nkululeko Ngcoya - approached by their employer RBA Developments to form a BEE structure, known as Siweziwe.
Siweziwe established a joint venture with RBA Developments.
The franchise business, acquired from the property giant Pam Golding, was split on a 60-40 basis in favour of RBA.
Black shareholders each owned 12percent equity in Siweziwe.
To form Siweziwe, Nkosi says, they had to use their own earnings and huge unpaid commissions owed to them while employed under RBA.
They also drew drastically reduced salaries after the formation of Siweziwe.
The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) also provided finance for the franchise.
Nkosi says one of the issues that led to her countless woes and suspension at Siweziwe was to challenge Ricky Eksteen, RBA managing director, for appointing himself as head of the new empowerment outfit. She describes his appointment as "unilateral and unprocedural".
Her complaints about corporate governance irregularities in Siweziwe also created a fierce altercation between herself, Eksteen and other black shareholders.
Nkosi says since the establishment of Siweziwe about two years ago, she alone has been challenging Eksteen on how he was managing Siweziwe.
According to Nkosi, there has never been a formal board meeting nor financial statement presented to the board of Siweziwe.
In addition, no yearly general meeting has ever been held, neither have resolutions been made available to board members, she claims.
Eksteen, she says, makes all the decisions affecting the business without consulting the other directors or tabling any such matters at a properly constituted board meeting.
With the help of her attorney, Nkosi says she requested access to all the matters relating to the business including all agreements concluded by the company since its incorporation.
She also demanded Siweziwe's management accounts as well as bank statements. She claims that because she alone raised these concerns, she was suspended.
She even questioned why Eksteen is managing Siweziwe as it is an empowerment company.
Section 181(1) of the Companies Act allows the properly constituted shareholders and directors to requisition a general meeting of the board members if such a meeting is not held.
As a result of her persistence, a disciplinary inquiry was set for July 4 to investigate 13 offences against her.
She was charged with, among others, misconduct and bringing the company into disrepute, according to the charge notices dated June 29 and July 2.
Though her suspension on June 21 was with full pay, Nkosi claims that she and other agents were not paid last month.
She does not understand why Siweziwe had to use RBA to buy the Pam Golding franchise because there are five other such franchises who bought their businesses directly from the property giant.
Nkosi says they did a number of projects for their empowerment company and that Siweziwe's Cosmo City, the mixed-residential project north-west of Johannesburg, was a money-making project and a huge success.
She says she sold more than 60 stands at an average cost of about R335000. Siweziwe was marketing 500 stands in a R2billion project coordinated by Gauteng government.
Nkosi claims that they never received a cent from the project's income despite being promised a share in the profit.
In addition, her basic salary has never been stable, she says. In order to be paid a full salary, Nkosi says she had to reach a R7million target a month.
Sowetan sent a list of questions to Eksteen with copies to RBA managing director David Wentzel and Pam Golding empowerment director John Herbst last week. They have all not responded.
But Nkululeko Ngcoya, one of the Siweziwe black shareholders, said Siweziwe was unable to comment on issues raised by Nkosi "until disciplinary proceedings against Ms Nkosi have been completed".
"Pending the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings she remains a board member and shareholder of the company," said Ngcoya.
Says Nkosi: "I feel like I have been robbed."
What worries her now is how to renew her estate agency licence and Fidelity Fund certificate. Siweziwe, she says, had not registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board, making it difficult for her to renew her licence.