Racialising poverty and need

IT was extremely disturbing to learn this week how proposed changes to government’s BEE code could further racialise poverty and need in South Africa.

Among the proposed amendments announced by the Department of Trade and Industry is that the government would only award full BEE points for socio-economic development contributions by companies to organisations with 100% black beneficiaries.

At present the benchmark is 75%. Pro-rata allocation of points will still apply for contributions to organisations with less than 100% black beneficiaries.

But for companies who are concerned about getting full points on their BEE scorecard, the amendment, if passed, will be a disincentive to contribute to any charity which supports even a few white beneficiaries.

This will affect most charities and service organisations in Ndlambe which depend on corporate donations.

Ironically, even organisations like the Port Alfred Soup Kitchen, whose beneficiaries are overwhelmingly black, will suffer by their admission they also feed a few white homeless men.

Bathurst’s Tiger Titans, which operates as a non-profit trust, has always been a development cricket club and had 100% black players until a year ago when they accepted two white home-schooled farm boys.

Anne McCreath, who helps manage the team, said the racial integration had benefited the club and she was adamant they would “never kick out our kids because they’re white”, even if it meant a loss of corporate sponsorship.

These and other organisations are rightly horrified at the prospect of a new law hampering rather then helping their much-needed community upliftment work.

It is unfortunate local companies were unwilling to comment in the press on the proposed changes, although concerns were expressed off the record.

The government’s rationale behind these amendments may be to encourage greater support for the black community, which is still the most disadvantaged community in South Africa, but it could have the unintended consequence of increased suffering among a growing poor-white sector.

On the other hand, if companies opt to forego BEE points to continue to support charities that help all race groups, they will be penalised as a result.

It is worrying that this is yet another discriminatory law that will be passed and meekly accepted by the people of South Africa, and we hope organisations and individuals will make their voices heard.

Comments on the proposed amendments can be submitted to xzondo@thedti.gov.za and lcmadonsela@thedti.gov.za or the DTI Campus, 77 Meintjies Street, Sunnyside, Pretoria 0002 c/o BEE Unit, or Private Bag X84, Pretoria 0002 c/o BEE Unit.

– Jon Houzet

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