Black business rejects ruling allowing Chinese to benefit from BEE

2nd July 2008 By: Christy van der Merwe

Black business and professional organisations on Wednesday expressed their dissatisfaction with the Pretoria High Court judgement characterising Chinese South Africans as ‘coloured’, thus qualifying them as beneficiaries in terms of black economic-empowerment, and called on the State “to appeal this irrational decision”.

“As black business and professional organisations, we reject both the substance and the process that was followed, leading to this shocking judgement. This judgement, in our view, revises a long-held historical view of the democratic struggle in South Africa,” said National African Federated Chambers of Commerce (Nafcoc) president and Business Unity South Africa (Busa) VP Buhle Mthethwa.

A number of black business organisations have instructed attorneys to study the judgement, with a view to exploring possible legal routes. The organisations have also requested a meeting with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Labour (DOL) to further discuss the matter.

“The fact that the DTI and the DOL are the respondents, gives credence to us that this is just an opportunistic thing that looks at economic opportunity. To say that coloured people should compete on an equal footing with the Chinese, on the basis of this judgement is really ridiculous,” added Busa government and stakeholder relations director Lawrence Khoza.

The black organisations represented at the briefing were Nafcoc, the Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants of South Africa (Abasa), the Black Management Forum (BMF), the Black Conveyances Association (BCA), the Black Information Technology Forum (BITF), the Black Lawyers Association (BLA), the South African Black technical and Allied Careers Organisation (Sabtaco), the South African Institute of Black Property Practitioners (SAIBPP), the Black Business Executive Circle (BBEC), and the national Black Business Caucus (NBBC).

The organisations saw the judgement as a “disappointing revision of the struggle for economic emancipation in South Africa”, and called on the South African government, the organised business community, corporate South Africa, and other stakeholders “to express their strong disavowal and disappointment with this shocking decision”.

“To hear a judge of our own country, who understands some of these things that are happening, suddenly just passing that without any consultation with us, or even this matter being debated, we really regard this as just being brushed under the carpet so that we approve this. We vehemently say that this is not on,” said NBBC president Dupree Vilakazi.

“The judge did not apply her mind, these errors happen sometimes. I do not blame her personally, because she has not suffered the way I have suffered… she just looks at the law. This is why it is not an administrative issue on the judiciary, it is a political issue that should have been addressed,” Vilakazi added.

It was felt that black economic-empowerment and employment equity interventions should primarily benefit the following black groups: Indian, African, Coloured, but the organisation stated that “Chinese are not coloured”.

“We as black people, who historically have been marginalised by process of legislation, have got to, honestly, jealously guard the gates. I think we have earned our stripes. We are historically disadvantaged because we are the persons who bore the biggest brunt of Apartheid,” explained Zungu investments company executive chairperson Sandile Zungu.