‘BEE is here to stay:’ Ramaphosa defends vision of inclusive economy

President Cyril Ramaphosa has emphasised that the government’s Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy is “here to stay” and should in fact be strengthened.

Speaking during a hybrid question-and-answer session with Parliament on Thursday, Ramaphosa also invited those opposed to BEE to offer solutions instead of “barriers.”

He was responding to a question by Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald, who had asked how he plans to restructure the economy.

“Don’t you think this a golden opportunity to get rid of BEE [and] get rid of affirmative action? You’ve asked the youth to get involved in building South Africa – does that include all of the youth?” Groenewald asked.

BEE ‘needs to be enhanced’

Ramaphosa replied, “The Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment policy thrust of this government, if anything, needs to be enhanced.”

“We need to ensure that black people, who were – under apartheid and colonial rule – excluded from playing an important role in the economy of their own country, [are] given their rightful position of playing an important role in the economy of their country. This is something that has to be done without any fail.”

The President said the only way to build an inclusive economy is to enable more black South Africans to participate, especially through land reform and economic ownership.

He added, “Our people have been patient forever and a day; they have been waiting for solutions. I am saying let us work together [and find] real solutions that are going to be impactful on the livelihoods of our people.

“An inclusive economy is what should be occupying you, honourable Groenewald, in your mind and everything you do, rather than… holding on to the privileges that white people have always had in this country.

“Because they were deliberately excluded through laws, through policies, conventions and practices, we’ve got to ensure that we implement the provisions of our Constitution.

“The Constitution says that in order for us to obtain equality, we have got to have legislative measures that will enable us to do precisely that. So BEE is here to stay.”

‘Proposals instead of barriers’

Ramaphosa warned that if South Africa doesn’t build an inclusive economy, those who have been excluded would “respond” and “all could be lost.”

“What I would have wanted to hear from honourable Groenewald and those of his ilk is to come forward and say, ‘Like many others are doing, we realise that we have a historic problem. Apartheid excluded the majority of South Africans… this is what we should do.’ I would have preferred that they come forward with proposals instead of barriers,” the President said.

Besides Freedom Front Plus, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and lobby groups such as AfriForum have voiced opposition to BEE in the recent past.

AfriForum and trade union Solidarity recently took the government to court to challenge BEE requirements for tourism relief fund assistance.

In May, DA interim leader John Steenhuisen petitioned the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to impose anti-BEE conditions on a possible loan to South Africa.

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