Fancy new BEE law likely to produce the same old failures

Giving ministers more power is a lousy idea when you still haven't defined exactly what new laws should achieve and how.


Groovy. The power just came on and I can finally write this column.

But first, let me read about 10 people killed in Maritzburg, the dropped Nulane charges, and how we’re no closer to finding out who killed AKA.

At least Uncle Waffles jammed at Coachella but the thing is, even under decades of apparently transformative laws, most South Africans won’t be able to afford to buy a boerie roll outside an Uncle Waffles show in Soweto, let alone the States.

Is all this BEE really worth it?

Sure, we see what could be dubbed transformation in many a sector, and the emergence of growing black middle class is something that is promising.

Is that as a result of the BEE? If so, why do we need more of it? If not, why do we want more of it?

The problem with these laws is that they create great divisive fodder and political appeasement in the social media spaces, but the workarounds will always be there, through trusts and corporate structures and, and, and…

I’ve never met a BEE consultant who couldn’t get creative for a fee, no matter how robust the laws.

Also Read: New BEE bill to face legal hurdles

These laws still make provisions for case-by-case reviews in front of the Labour Court, and all that will do is hamper profits and efficiency as resources are dedicated to court battles rather than getting on with business.

But how can we tell whether these new laws are going to be effective and whether we can hold the minister to any form of account?

It will be easy to just say that we’ve strengthened transformation laws but we’ve been strengthening corruption, crime, and whistleblowing laws for years and what a big help those have been – said in my best sarcastic tone.

Laws without plans are pointless

Without some form of target for the law, we neither know whether the law is worth it nor whether it will be effective. We’re basically shooting in the dark with a big gun, hoping it will get the killshot and not hurt anybody else.

It’s not a smart way to run policy.

You want no whities, some whities, all whities? Too many whities? Want to write a Dischem letter? Is looking at it from a white perspective too much though?

Should we go with how many black people do you want at the top? Is it only the top that matters? How is workforce down the line impacted, and how do you want them impacted?

These laws don’t give us any indication of those goals or ambitions. They merely transfer power from Parliament to the executive through the minister.

Law should be worth the curtailment of freedom

We have a powerful phrase in legal philosophy: Whenever a new law is passed a freedom is limited.

Often that’s a justifiable transaction – I lose my freedom to rob you, you lose your freedom to rob me, we make robbing a crime, and everybody feels a bit safer.

In this case you’re taking existing freedoms to hire whoever I want and shrinking them more, while placing the extent and the cost in the hands of one person.

I mean, I don’t mind that limitation actually, though it feels very much like taking apartheid’s strategy of parliamentary sovereignty and shoving in a steroid suppository, but just tell me what it’s supposed to do!

It’s not enough anymore to say “more transformation” because that doesn’t mean anything.

It’s not good enough that we’re handing power to fix a problem from elected representatives to the president’s buddy, and we haven’t even decided on how the problem solved will look.

Doing whatever you want in the name of transformation is all good and well if we know what transformation is, but since we don’t, giving a person more power and a master key rationale sounds like a lousy idea.

I think most South Africans would rather have access to the internet before they care about whether X percentage of Starlink’s staff are of a designated group.

Thank goodness our ministers follow through with their ideas, like the 10 free gigabytes for every household we were promised early last year.

We should totally give ministers more power to control and fine us.

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