On 5 October 2012, the Department of Trade and Industry (dti), opened a 60-day period for public comment on the revised broad-based black economic-empowerment (B-BBEE) Codes of Good Practice (CoGP). The proposed changes have prompted impassioned response from representatives of all sectors of our society, including the nonprofit sector, reflects corporate social investment (CSI) Practitioner, Samantha Braithwaite.
In particular, the proposed changes to the socio-economic development (SED) element triggered an earnest and important discussion about our national priorities, and how to continue supporting the most marginalised while still promoting sustainable transformation.
The objective of Broad-Based Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) is stated in the dti’s 2003 strategy document as, “An integrated and inherent socio-economic process that directly contributes to the transformation of South Africa and brings about significant increases in the number of black people that manage, own and control the country’s economy, as well as significant decreases in inequalities.” This objective speaks directly to the broad mandate of the Codes to transform the socio-economic profile of South Africa.
With this in mind, the dti’s proposed changes to the CoGP were met with some uncertainty by private and social sectors alike, as questions were asked about whether the CoGP warranted change, and how any revisions would bring us closer to achieving the overall objectives of the Codes.
Over the course of the review period, there has been lengthy and heated discussion specifically on the proposed changes to the SED pillar of the Codes, and more specifically the provision that corporate contributions would only be fully recognisable ‘if at least 100 percent of the value directly benefits black people’.
Many opined that these changes would exacerbate the many challenges faced by civil society and the nonprofit sector in particular. We have seen comment in the media and formal submissions from large national nonprofit bodies, smaller community-based organisations and many in between. While this commentary has taken many forms and made many differing recommendations, it has shared a profound and intrinsic belief: that the role played by the nonprofit sector is a critical support to our country and one that needs to be recognised and strengthened.
In response to this vocal but constructive feedback, the dti withdrew the proposed changes to the SED element on 29 November 2012.
The opportunity to comment on the proposed revisions to the CoGP provided a unique opportunity for South African civil society. The process has brought key stakeholders together to constructively critique how we legislate transformative organisational practices, while providing a structured platform to engage with Government on the essential role of the nonprofit sector in South Africa. At the same time, the sector has had the opportunity to grapple with - and better understand - its relationship with both the private and public sectors.
Crucially, in the eyes of Tshikululu Social Investments, this discussion has also demonstrated that the CoGP do not impact solely on South African businesses. Rather, they have very real practical implications for the nonprofit sector and those whom it serves; including our society’s most marginalised. Hopefully, as a result, the sector will have a more prominent voice in future discussions on the Codes.
The announcement of the revisions posed harsh questions for the nonprofit sector and has made us all interrogate the role each sector plays in achieving our common goal of a transformed South Africa. This experience has also demonstrated the power of rallying together, and advocating on behalf of our shared interests, just as it has demonstrated government’s willingness to listen. These are good things, and it is hoped that the events of the past few weeks can provide a strengthened platform for continued dialogue about how we all help realise the promise and potential of our maturing democracy.
- Samantha Braithwaite is a Corporate Social Investment Practitioner at Tshikululu Social Investments (www.tshikululu.org.za).