US-style ‘minority procurement’ or BEE is ill-suited to South Africa

by Dan Roodt

Deputy President Motlanthe’s call for black business to become more “cost-competitive” in tendering for state business is another noble-sounding ideal denied by reality.

South Africa is so committed to race preference that there is no turning back. It is inscribed in the Constitution and in the minds of almost everyone. BEE, which nowadays gets referred to as Black Elite Enrichment, is a political principle and not an economic one.

The mythology of “apartheid” being a Nazi-like system which “killed millions of people” (this was stated to me by a Wits academic) and withheld education from black people has created the “debt” which must be discharged through hand-outs to the black elite, masquerading as “business”.

Big Business in South Africa has always meddled in politics and has taken a kind of decadent pleasure in kow-towing to a radical government. Some sucker will always pay for BEE and affirmative action, whether it will be pension funds, the middle-class taxpayer or the poor simply getting poorer. We have been infected with American ideas dreamt up to pamper a smaller number of blacks in an economy forty times bigger than ours.

US-style “minority procurement” or BEE is as ill-suited to us as Pik Botha’s anecdote of a snow plough sold to a former homeland government for its airport. “Every airport must have a snow plough” was the sales pitch. Just like every black man must have a business and enjoy some form of preference to soothe his pride and dignity.

South Africa is already a failure as its education and health systems crumble and the numbers queuing up to be “empowered” from the state’s coffers swell. But this is all part of the master plan; a sovereign state at the southern tip of Africa did not suit the major powers.

Many abroad will applaud South Africa’s eventual descent into Zimbabwean bankruptcy and squalor, with gleeful Schadenfreude. It is our fate, which was decided in 1994 and even before.

South Africa is a weak state, if not a failed one. The previous Afrikaner state had some strategic value as it could exert some influence over the sea routes and bother its adversaries. This weak or failed state has about as much strategic importance as Swaziland or Lesotho.

No-one could care less about whether Zuma or Malema governs us, or whether the state pays R7 or R27 for a bottle of water.