Sihle Zikalala. Picture: BONGANI MBATHA
Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs announced plans to undertake a B-BBEE audit of the province’s top 100 companies on Tuesday.

The audit, or verification process, which also extends to all government entities and departments, will “include the identification of opportunities for small enterprises and will also analyse the procurement spend and who benefits from these opportunities”.

This was announced by MEC Sihle Zikalala at the provincial legislature yesterday, where he delivered his R3 billion budget for the 2018/2019 financial year.

B-BBEE verification is seen as one of the plans to speed up radical socio-economic transformation as pressure mounts on the government to accelerate the transformation of the economy.

Pressure groups, including various business forums which have disrupted some of the big economic projects in the province, have been growing impatient with what they say is the slow pace of economic transformation.

“The recent torching of trucks in Mooi River and the disruption of work on the construction sites by armed groups are deeply worrying,” Zikalala said, adding his department would continue to engage all stakeholders so similar incidents were not only dealt with when they arose, but prevented from happening.

He also expressed concerns over the slow pace of radical economic transformation in the province.

He said many of the challenges experienced with regards to this were as a result of the lack of capacity at district level and thus the provincial government would convene radical socio-economic transformation (Raset) laboratories in each of the 11 districts.

“These laboratories will craft detailed plans with clear targets as well as public commitment on the implementation of the plans,” he said.

Zikalala also announced the creation of a R57m Raset fund to be administered by Ithala Bank. The fund would support Raset projects to be launched in the current financial year.

“The fund will support, among others, projects in vegetable production, grain milling, poultry and dairy products,” he said.

He said various municipalities and private sector companies had all pledged support to the Raset programme.

Zikalala promised that Indians and coloureds would not be excluded from B-BBEE initiatives in the province.

He said this in response to the Minority Front’s Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi, who questioned if some racial groups would be excluded from the initiative.

Slaves

“We must remember that Indians and coloureds were also previously disadvantaged, as Indians were brought to this country as slaves,” Thakur-­Rajbansi said.

Zikalala gave his “full commitment” in ensuring that minority groups were included in the B-BBEE verification processes.

DA MPL Ann McDonnell said leaders within the province should be in mourning for the economy.

She said that there was a time when South Africa was the first choice investment destination for foreign investors into Africa, but now it lagged fifth behind Angola, Rwanda, Botswana and Nigeria.

However, McDonnell was optimistic in saying that tourism was the goose that could lay the golden egg of an improved economy for KZN.

The IFP’s Steven Moodley called for job creation to be a priority for the department, saying it held the key to unlock job opportunities sooner rather than later as compared with other departments.

The Mercury