Giving black economic empowerment a bad name

A KEY agenda in post-apartheid South Africa is to change socioeconomic relations that saw the majority in this country being politically and economically marginalised.

Politically major inroads have been made, with the previously marginalised majority now enjoying full rights as citizens of our new democracy.

It is on the economic front that there is still a huge gap between the ideal and the reality on the ground.

The majority of unemployed South Africans are black. The majority of poor in this country - who according to the the United Nations standard of living measures survive on less than R67 a day - are black.

It is in this context that the government has introduced policies such as the employment equity and black economic empowerment to redress the situation.

As a way of actualising some of these policies the government has, for example, adopted measures like preferential procurement systems.

This is a policy whereby government departments give preference to blacks whenever they need to procure whatever products or services.

As part of its commitment to good governance, the government has developed a system whereby potential service providers compete among themselves through a tender process. Among other things, the department involved will look at the cost effectiveness of the offer made by the potential service provider, and of course driven by the commitment to uplift black economic entrepreneurs.

A few years ago I had a discussion with the then Limpopo premier Sello Moloto in which he raised his concern about how some unscrupulous individuals were abusing the government tender system.

His contention was that the tender system was aimed at developing black entrepreneurship. What was instead happening was a situation in which people with political connections - and who have no entrepreneural acumen - win tenders.

Instead of, for example, engaging in the building of low-cost housing according to the issued tender, such people sell the tender document to someone else and pocket millions of rands.

"These are some of the people you see driving luxury cars and claiming to be involved in the struggle to deracialise our economy," said Moloto.

The downside of this phenomenon is that these individuals are not contributing to the sustainable development of the previously marginalised majority.

There is, for example, no skills transfer or even sustainable wealth creation that can in the long run contribute to job creation.

What compounds the situation is how such individuals engage in conspicuous consumption. They actually do nothing to promote the much-needed culture of saving in this country.

Some of these individuals claim to be role models of the unemployed and poor youth from disadvantaged communities. They appear on TV programmes crowing about how they are carrying the banner of the youth's struggle for economic emancipation.

What they do not disclose is the fact that they have used nefarious means to be where they are. Some of these individuals have come to be known as the "Ten Percent" brigade. These are individuals who use their political connections to help businesspeople get tenders at a fee.

These are the individuals who are giving black economic empowerment a bad name. Unfortunately they exist within and without the public sector.

It is because of them that reactionaries who are against change and the transformation of this society are painting all black entrepreneurs with the same brush.

These are the reactionaries who punt the line that any rich black man is part of crony capitalism encouraged by our black-led majority government.

What this country needs is a rebirth of Chicago-born Gill Scott-Heron "bluesologist" and poet who wrote his world acclaimed poem The Revolution will not be televised.

For the uninitiated a "bluesologist" is a scientist who is concerned with the origin of the blues.

Written in the 1970s, the poem was challenging the very patronising depiction of race relations in the US then.

It also sought to challenge a situation wherein blacks were depicted as consumers of a materialist culture based on the lives of beautiful film stars with sex appeal and well-toned bodies.

What also being challenged was the power of the media to predict that, because of black passivity, the political situation in America then would not change.

As far as Scott-Heron was concerned the only way the situation could change was through black people taking to the street and leading the revolution.

"The revolution ... will not star Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen.

"The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner, because the revolution will be televised ... The revolution will not go better with Coke ... NBC will not be able to predict the winner at 8.32. Or report from 29 districts.

"The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised...

"The revolution will be live!"

We need a reborn Scott-Heron to come and write another epic poem to give a prognosis of our situation in South Africa wherein "The blingolution is being televised".

The unfortunate reality is that the "blingolution" is being televised in the name of the revolution by blingolutionaries masquerading as revolutionaries.

Blingolutionaries who - unfortunately with the assistance of some of the media - are using the masses as cannon fodder to achieve their nefarious intentions of being rich on behalf of the poor.

They do all these in the name of fighting apartheid capitalism

We have a class of "hustlers" who use the plight of the poor and unemployed to feather their own nests - all in the name of the revolution.