Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has warned that white bosses who cheat and pretend their firms are more empowered than they actually are – could face jail.
“The BEE Commission must touch a few people on the shoulder, and see they put on an orange uniform,” he told an empowerment conference.
The Minister had delayed proceeding by an hour and seventeen minutes. It was schduled to kick off at 9am, but only got moving at 10.17. Delegates, mainly black, were forced to wait, and wait, and wait.
There was no apology from the Minister. The organisers had said the event would not kick-off until he was in attendance.
Davies gave a few examples of the way in which BEE rules are being flouted. He said the BEE Commission (which answers to him) evaluates transactions and the performance of public entities.
“Individuals could face prison time” for falsely declaring their BEE status, he warned.
He also warned that public sector entities must fall in line with BEE procurement law.
”There is no way in which a public entity is exempt from the BEE Act,” he stated.
And he warned: “We are seeing all sorts of new practices which aim to get around the legislation and code of conduct.
“This need not be not a game of how do I get around the rules and still get state contracts and tenders. If so (and peoply try to cheat) we will have to become tougher.
“There have been a number of instances of BEE verification agencies giving scores which companies are not entitled to.
“We are not going to tolerate any cases where the score has been manipulated for personal financial gain.
“We have also seen abuse of broad-based ownership schemes, where communities are empowered, collectives of workers are empowered.”
“It should be reducing, if not eliminating, widespread tokensism and outright fraudulent presentation of your performance in BEE.”
Davies proceeded to another conference, a Proudly SA gathering, where he said the country could leap to a higher growth path, following the election of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“This is creating a mood change. If we do a few things right, we can move to a new and qualitatively-different growth path. Radically transform our economy with higher levels of economic growth,” he suggested.
Davies spoke a lot about the need for government to follow its own rules on procuring more locally, and he urged the private sector to do the same.
“For the FIFA world cup, every bus was imported. Now bus bodies are made in SA and there is discussion about moving chassis work (so it is localised).
“We have also seen a lot of slippage in the form of outright non-compliance (with) state corruption, where tenders have been given irregularly. And often for imports, at the expense of local products.”
He suggested more local meat products should be labeled to say they are South African.
Davies concluded by warning there may need to be tougher rules on e-commerce, to promote the sale of local goods, and to clamp down on imports.
“We don’t find a whole load of e-commerce platforms in our country that aren’t just portals for imports,” he warned.