Since the introduction of the B-BBEE Act of 2003, broad-based black economic empowerment is 17 years old and counting. It’s been seventeen years since a commitment was made to honour the infamous line of ‘righting the wrongs of the apartheid era’. Yet, still today, B-BBEE compliance is often referred to as a grudge purchase.
A grudge purchase. Let’s take a moment to break that down. When we look at the definition of the word grudge, Oxford quotes, ‘’a persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury.’’ I do understand the latter half of the definition: B-BBEE addresses the very real past injuries caused by apartheid; however, it’s the first half that I can’t quite relate to. A persistent feeling depicts a feeling that is ongoing or obstinate.
You would think, that after all this time, people would have understood the intentions behind the B-BBEE Act and Codes of Good Practice. For those who are unfamiliar, these legislations govern the guidelines on how to enforce black economic empowerment in a fair and safe manner. If these legislations are meant to offer a positive resolve, the obvious question arises, how can it contribute to the persistent feeling of ill will or resentment?
When one hears the word apartheid, there is generally an immediately negative connotation. Surely, then, any legislation issued to help alleviate those injustices would be seen in a positive light. Why, then, would the road to strip away the injustice still be paved with feelings of ill will or resentment? Perhaps it’s because, as humans, we have a basic instinct to protect our rights, our rights of freedom, of speech, of any act within our control.
The gratification of a purchase comes when you chose to spend your money on something you may want or need. Once the aspect of choice or control is removed and the purchase is done because you have to, you view that purchase negatively. When that control is taken away — even partially — we harbour a grudge.
Generally, grudge purchases are things such as tyres for your car, a roof for your home, a mattress to sleep on, etc. It is a product or service that needs to be maintained in order for you to extract a benefit from it. The same applies to the world of B-BBEE. In order for your business to extract the benefit of B-BBEE (such as securing new business opportunities) you need to obtain a good B-BBEE compliance level.
Attaining a good level, however, requires a serious commitment from companies. There are monetary and non-monetary implications, and sometimes it can be downright expensive.
But just as the car needs new tyres in order to maintain safety on the road, so too does B-BBEE need to be adhered to and maintained in order to truly transform the country.
While I don’t mean to be insensitive to people’s feelings, I do think that we need to get over the grudge that comes along with B-BBEE purchases. I mean, what positive outcome can arise from the persistent feeling of ill will and resentment?
For those of you struggling with this sentiment, I offer the following tip for dealing with grudge purchases: focus on the outcome rather than the process.
We will find more comfort when we understand that a truly transformed country means great things for every single South African. Every time your company hires a black person, every black skills development intervention, every purchase from a B-BBEE compliant supplier, every contribution made towards a black-owned company or towards the black community, will be a step in the right direction.
So I say grudge schmudge. Don’t let the negativity of the apartheid era seep into what can be a beautiful transformation for an evolving country.
Yes, there are many instances of corruption in government and public entities that all leave a bad taste in our mouths. Somehow these are more often than not tied into some B-BBEE principle such as preferential procurement. Despite that, I think we should subscribe to a more positive mindset and focus on each black life that is changed for the better. If we are all truly honest with ourselves and each other, we will acknowledge the underlying racism that continues to plague our world.
I sincerely hope I will not be misunderstood here. I am not saying that I don’t understand the feelings of grudge, I am asking that as you read this, you open your mind to changing the way you think and feel about B-BBEE.
Look at the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to face a virus that threatens the very existence of our livelihoods, we as a nation have come and continue to stay together. We encourage and support each other, in the spirit of compassion. Why then can we not do the same when it comes to B-BBEE? Why can’t we see transformation for what it is, which is a change, to enhance or be better.
As each South African accepts the beauty and burdens that others carry, we will start to embrace the changes that make us a rainbow nation.
So the next time you hear someone say that B-BBEE is a grudge purchase, remind them of how helpful or worthy the task at hand could be. Remind them that each step we take in the right direction is one step closer to something more beautiful.
Author – Mitishka Ramdhani, 11 August 2020