Political shifts threaten BEE

BEE has crossed the floor. Consider the evidence: the key symbols of the state’s empowerment drive have quit the ANC to join the Congress of the People (Cope). This has implications for the future of empowerment as the internal lobbyists for the policy are now on the outside.

For the past decade one of the best lobbyists for BEE has been Gloria Serobe, CEO of Wiphold and a confidante of former president Thabo Mbeki. She was key to the president’s black business working group and was at the centre of most of the big empowerment deals which have been struck, notably those at Old Mutual and Telkom.

With its access to a network of urban and rural women her Wiphold is seen as the primary vehicle for broad-based empowerment. Her access to power increased her equity as the country’s primary networker. Serobe is now a notable member of Cope, the party which has split off from the ANC and which has come to define this election.

Her male counterpart is undoubtedly Saki Macozoma, deputy chairperson of Standard Bank and one of the ANC’s early advocates of a mixed economy model. He quit Parliament to become Transnet’s first black CEO and used that as a stepping stone into the world of big business. For years he was the counterweight to the communist and union lobbies within the ANC but lost his national executive position at the Polokwane conference in 2007.

Since then he has been marginalised by the ruling party and announced his decision to join Cope earlier this year.

A veteran of the BEE movement, Wiseman Nkuhlu, is Cope’s candidate for Eastern Cape premier. He has been under fire within the Eastern Cape Development Corporation, which he chairs. Then, there is Smuts Ngonyama best known as the former ANC spokesperson but also a significant businessman in his own right. The millions he built up are now being used to fund Cope’s inaugural campaign.

There is also a younger generation of empowerment players now in Cope’s fold. This group is symbolised by Mooketsi Mosola, former Tourism SA chief executive and now chief campaign manager for Cope, and includes generally young and successful black professionals and business people.

The ANC is fighting back.

Around Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, where the black diamonds have altered the urban culture, it’s a common sight to see Mercs, Hummers and BMWs draped in the colours of JZ — black, green and gold. In March the Confederation of Black Business Organisations was launched. Clearly supporting the ANC, this federation of eight allied organisations of black businesses and professionals was conceived as a counterbalance to those who have left to seek their fortunes in a new movement.

Either way, black business is going into this election more politically diverse than it has been since the end of apartheid. The jury’s out on whether this is a good or a bad thing for empowerment.

Transformation in focus
Metropolitan and Mail & Guardian invite you to a breakfast debate on Transformation in Focus.

Is the financial sector holding the country to ransom? Hear the views of top analysts and commentators including Lot Ndlovu from Nakatomi Corporation, Jerry Vilakazi from Business Unity South Africa, Charmaine Soobramoney from the Association of Savings and Investment South Africa, and Nkosana Mashiya from the national treasury.

Venue: Hilton Hotel

Date: Tuesday March 31

Time: 7.30am for 8am

To reserve your seat call Tamarin Marshman on 011 250 7300.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories


Subscribers only

Come what may, the UIF will pay

The fund – the main safety net for unemployed workers – will run at an almost R20-billion deficit

‘Terrorised’ family shines a light on traditional leadership for vulnerable...

The ambiguity between traditional and constitutional leadership has been exposed by the violent banishment of an Eastern Cape family

More top stories

Remote working: Bosses want ‘bums on seats’

Many workers, including managers, like working remotely, but research shows it can be tough on most other employees.

Living with Long Covid in Lagos

Most people recover from Covid‑19 quickly, but Long Haulers in Nigeria are turning to one another for support

Financial sector increases its government debt to 22%

The banking sector will be in a vulnerable position if the national treasury does not stabilise its debt

Get to grips with the brains of youth

Shaping the frontal cortex as a critical youth development strategy

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…