President Cyril Ramaphosa has strongly defended the government’s policy of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), saying it is empowering previously disadvantaged groups.
Ramaphosa was responding to a question from DA leader John Steenhuisen in Parliament on Thursday.
Steenhuisen had asked, “BEE millionaires have used race as a means to hijack empowerment and have crowded out the 30 million people who live in poverty in this country. Race-based policies are tearing our country apart.
“Mr President, would you commit yourself to non-racialism and ensuring that we scrap all policies that seek to divide South Africans based on something as arbitrary as their skin colour?”
In response, Ramaphosa said the Constitution has provisions that seek to promote equality because apartheid privileged one race over another. This race “continues to reap the benefits” of that privilege, he added.
The President explained, “We cannot then say, when provision is made to lift up those who were unprivileged, that that in itself is a racist act.
“Our government is not a racist government. Our government seeks to promote the rights and interests of all.
“If we take steps to promote black economic empowerment, it is wrong for those who think that it is a racist policy. It is an empowering policy and it should be embraced and applauded by all.
“I’m frankly surprised at those who, having enjoyed the privileges of the past regime, take umbrage [and] are very angry when those who have never enjoyed those privileges are lifted up.”
DA opposed to BEE
The DA has consistently opposed BEE, going as far as launching a court challenge against the government’s use of BBBEE criteria for disbursing small business relief during the lockdown. However, it lost its bid to set aside the criteria.
In May, Steenhuisen also petitioned the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to impose anti-BEE conditions on its R70 billion to South Africa. This petition similarly did not succeed.
Ramaphosa similarly defended BEE in another Parliamentary appearance in June, arguing that it should in fact be enhanced.