MAPULE MAHLULO: An open letter to Solidarity, AfriForum on B-BBEE phobia


Dear AfriForum and Solidarity,

I write this open letter to you to give you words of comfort following your defeat in the highest court of the land. The Constitutional Court dismissed your case against Tourism Minister Mamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane’s decision to disburse the COVID-19 Tourism Relief Fund according to broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) criteria.

Firstly, let me categorically state that my intention is not to gloat nor put salt into the wound sustained from the blow you received in both the High and Constitutional Courts. Rather, it is to offer advice on how to deal with your pain. I have diagnosed your condition and now extend my offer to help.

You see, you suffer from a condition that I would call acute chronic B-BBEE-phobia.

Like any other phobia, it is simply caused by an often irrational fear of the unknown resulting from a figment of your imaginations. Yes, your fears are just a phantom, fog-like - and once you face it and step into this fog, you will soon realise that it is not real and you will be free from it.

Fear in itself is normal, and the mind automatically triggers a fight or flight approach when there’s perception of a threat. You decided to take the fight approach, as symptomised by the frivolous court cases with the Tourism Minister.

Pioneering physicist and chemist Marie Curie once said that “nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood”. With this in mind, my prescription is that you seek to understand what this B-BBEE monster you see is about, and I am going to attempt to help you do that.

Scientists advise that the best way to deal with fear is to face it head on and gather the courage to do what you are afraid of doing. My first prescription therefore, is that you download and face a B-BBEE affidavit head-on. You will realise that it says companies with a turnover of R10 million or less are B-BBEE level 4 , with 100% B-BBEE recognition even if they have 0% black shareholding, as I stated in my previous column. That’s correct, all the white-owned companies that you were representing in court could have simply downloaded this form and applied for the COVD-19 tourism relief funding of R50,000 for their guesthouses and B&Bs, and would have been eligible to apply with that B-BBEE affidavit.

The second prescription is that you humourise B-BBEE. I am giving the liberty to rename it and call it by any other name that excludes the word “black” because perhaps the phobia is triggered by “swart gevaar” which you grew up hearing about as a small boy during apartheid South Africa, a period declared as a crime against humanity by the United Nations.

My final prescription is that you procure a B-BBEE consultant to audit any of the companies you own, if their turnover is more than R10 million per annum. This will give you an understanding of the other four elements of the B-BBEE Act (besides ownership), which are Enterprise Supplier Development, Skills Development, Management Control and Socio-Economic Development. Black shareholding only counts for 27-points out of the total 111-points on the tourism scorecard for large companies.

Please note that I strongly believe in your course to fight for the rights of the minority. It is a constitutionally recognised just cause. You simply suffer from B-BBEE-phobia, which is fortunately treatable.

Mapule Mahlulo is a director at Bayanda Business Academy and is the author of 'B-BBEE for Beginners'.