Fronting is a war against transformation
Our transformation progress so far can be credited to regulations. Without enforceable regulations we would be nowhere, and for this reason, I can’t help but be suspicious each time there’s a BEE appointment. My suspicion is further fuelled by how loose some of these BEE regulations are.
Regulations are necessary when you lack ownership. If black people owned large businesses we wouldn’t require many BEE regulations. Because of lack of ownership our transformation focus is more on job opportunities. The job opportunities focus at white-owned companies should be a temporary solution to be phased out with black industrialisation, but in our country temporary solutions usually last a lifetime.
Here’s my suspicion with BEE appointees. If you are appointing someone you wouldn’t without regulations, it means you need to carefully select a candidate that won’t practically fulfill the intended mandate of the regulation. It should be someone controllable who will still toe the company line in terms of its direction.
It has to be someone whose role would be to tick off the BEE requirement where his or her expertise of the job will be of little importance because it’s not required. That’s usually the case at an executive level. After the BEE appointment the white company owners will continue to work hard behind the scene to ensure that their company is successful, shielding their black puppets while also doing little to further transform the company.
This is not to question the quality of all BEE appointees but their work should be monitored and reviewed, not just on the company’s growth and balance sheet, but also on their contribution to transformation. Reviewing BEE appointees based only on the company’s financial performance is a wrong way to review someone who could be a front for they are probably not involved at all in running the company.
The BEE charter is easily exploitable because its main focus is on the skin colour, ignoring quality. The biggest beneficiaries of this simplistic colour approach are our political leaders because beyond their skin colour many lack the skills. They look at transformation from their own personal gain point of view at the expense of everyone else. Through fronting we have a situation where black people are colluding with white companies against transformation.
We have black people who make a living out of ensuring that real transformation doesn’t happen through allowing to be placed in positions where they add no value and for them it’s just a job. Transformation is not about personal wealth but upliftment of the entire race even it means sacrificing your own wealth to ensure that other people are also taken care of. Let’s resist any temptation to be used against our own. Fronting is a crime.
Written by Lufuno Makungo