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Press Release

First there was affirmative action, then employment equity, closely followed by black economic empowerment (BEE), and now there is broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE).

The array of new employment principles is breathtaking, and often confusing to follow.

Lisa Tait, a trainer in BBBEE for AstroTech, who has been lecturing on equity in employment for at least a decade, says the "codes of good practice when finalised by the department of trade and industry will make the impact on the workplace of BBBEE more pervasive. Because there is so much change around BBBEE, it is imperative that one receives ongoing training."

If you are serious about doing business in South Africa, it is imperative to be BBBEE compliant.

In terms of the 2003 Black Economic Empowerment Act, "black" is a person who is African, coloured or Indian.

In the code, a person also has to be a South African citizen by birth or naturalisation as at April 27 1994.

Tait says: "Transformation is an enormous opportunity in South Africa. We lived for a long time with outdated paradigms. Business accepted practices that may not have been as effective as they could have been."

Let's take a look at why. Under apartheid, 13 percent of the land was reserved for 85 percent of the people, all of them black. Black people were not allowed to be managers or have white subordinates.

They could not own businesses in white areas - the communities where most money resided. The list goes on.

"BEE provides enormous opportunities for looking at ourselves introspectively, looking at gender, technology, race issues, how to make the workplace different. BEE is a catalyst for positive change," Tait says,

In terms of BEE, companies have to comply with a generic scorecard directed towards ownership, skills development and preferential procurement.

Research by Empowerdex shows that black directors hold 24,9 percent of all board positions on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, up from a fraction of one percent in 1994. Black women hold only 5,6 percent of all board positions on the JSE.

According to Tait, "a common misperception is that the sale of equity in a company is the beginning and end of narrow-based BEE.

If a company makes a decision to sell equity, it would be better if the company first looked at its own business and evaluated whether it is better to bring in outside partners or maybe create an employee trust.

Do you reward the already rich, or do you spread real empowerment among those loyal to your organisation?

In a country with 40 percent unemployment (according to Stats SA) and 57 percent living in poverty (according to the Human Sciences Research Council), the sort of equity demanded by BEE is still a long way off.

Tait explains that there are different sorts of BEE: "To sell equity is known as transfer BEE. The downside of that is that unless an employee trust is created, there is no assurance of job security for employees.

"Transformation BEE, on the other hand, deals with other aspects in a company such as corporate social investment and procurement. It is in the elements of skills, employment equity and CSI that people need to see benefits."

What about complaints that BEE discriminates against white people?

Tait puts the complaint into a factual perspective: "White employment has not decreased in the new South Africa, it has increased.

It might be more difficult for white males and females entering the job market, but people with skills are needed for a growing economy.

"We live in an economy where there are more opportunities but you have to be better at what you do to seize them. You need to add value."

  • Liza van Wyk is Managing Director of AstroTech.

    For more information on AstroTech courses on BEE and balanced scorecard essentials, or one of their courses, visit  or email: