BBBEE counciL 'has a huge task ahead'

A MAMMOTH task lies ahead of President Jacob Zuma's Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Council which was introduced to the public a week ago.

The 19-member council was addressed by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and replaced the business working group which advised former president Thabo Mbeki.

It is a statutory body created in terms of the BBBEE Act to advise the president on BEE matters.

It will meet at least four times a year in plenaries. But it is expected that most of the work will take place through subcommittees to be established when it convenes in five weeks.

Among its members is Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini, Business Unity SA CEO Jerry Vilakazi, businessmen Sandile Zungu and Don Mkhwanazi, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana and Minister of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya.

Nicholas Maweni, BEE commentator, director of Crossroads Distribution, SkyNet Worldwide and owner of MaweNguni Holdings, a company owning Virgin Mobile outlets, said Zuma's advisory council faced an enormous task.

"The first task for the council is to assist the president in educating and informing the public about BBBEE," said Maweni.

"That will help to demystify BBBEE from the concept of a few individuals who are close to the government and then get big deals making them fat cats."

He said the BBBEE focus should shift from just shareholding and control to place more emphasis on procurement, which will bring black small businesses on board.

"We expect the council to focus on enterprise development which in turn will empower entrepreneurs.

"We should create a culture of black people who will start businesses that will grow the economy as not every black person wants to join or work for predominantly white firms," he said.

"A number of companies can now show that they have employed more black people on the lower levels in their businesses.

"But skills development of those black employees is needed to enable them to move up the corporate ladder and occupy strategic positions."

Maweni said the council should also liaise with various organs of state such as New Empowerment Fund, New Youth Development Agency, Industrial Development Corporation and Small Enterprise Development Agency to consolidate and streamline efforts made.

"One of the biggest challenges is putting proper mechanisms in place to deal with fronting. Transformation has been reduced to compliance, hence white-owned companies are exploiting black people to gain points on the BBBEE scorecard."