Wiseman Khuzwayo and Sungula Nkabinde
The Department of Trade and Industry (dti) has disputed a media report that came out this week saying that the recently gazetted Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) Amendment Bill would for the first time exclude white women as beneficiaries of BEE, with spokesman Sidwell Medupe saying yesterday that they were not included in the original law and were not included in the current amendment either.
Medupe said the report confused the Broad-Based BEE Act with the Employment Equity Act, which included white women as a designated group and fell under the Department of Labour.
He said that, according to the BEE act and its amendment bill, companies would not earn points by including white women in their BEE schemes.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies yesterday angrily dismissed the reports.
He said the bill had not deviated from the original beneficiaries as defined in the Broad-Based BEE Act and further qualified in the codes of good practice for broad-based BEE.
He said there had never been any discussion about deviating from the original beneficiaries as defined in the act.
Therefore, the statement should be dismissed with the contempt it deserved and the market should not give credence to such statements.
“The definition in the current Broad-Based BEE Act of black people is a generic term, which means Africans, coloureds and Indians. The current (amendment) bill does not propose to change the beneficiaries of BEE at all,” Davies said.
The controversy was started by a report in The New Age newspaper, which said that, according to the bill, companies would no longer receive BEE grading for appointing white women and people with disabilities.
It quoted Andile Tlhoaele, a member of a sub-committee of the presidential BEE advisory committee, as saying the bill eliminated all whites, including the disabled. “The definition of black people is now clear and aligned with the constitution,” he reportedly said.
However, Tlhoaele told Business Report this week: “Before this amendment, there were disparities between the law and the generic codes, which allowed companies to abuse the system to score BEE points.
“I did not say that the bill will now strictly harm white women and people with disabilities. Maybe The New Age took my interview out of context for their own purposes.”
The bill, which was gazetted on December 7 and gives the public 60 days to comment, introduces specific statutory offences involving fronting and other forms of fraudulent misrepresentation of BEE status and includes the specification of penalties and blacklisting of companies for those offences.