The Graduate School of Business' resident black economic empowerment (BEE) expert, Loyiso Mbabane, has been enlisted by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to serve on a high-profile task team that will lay the groundwork for the government's impending BEE Act.
In the letter of invitation to Mbabane, department minister, Alec Irwin, pointed out that the government's recent BEE Strategy Document envisaged the passing of such a black empowerment Act, which in turn would lead to the establishment of an Advisory Council. He added that the assistance of experienced people would be required in the run-up to the Act, individuals who would assess proposals for the preceding Bill, define a work programme for the Advisory Council and support the government in explaining the purpose and operation of its BEE strategy.
Mbabane, who started at the GSB in October last year as its first full-time African lecturer, will join the likes of business luminary Cyril Ramaphosa (formerly chair of the Black Economic Empowerment Commission [BEEC]), senior political and business leader Saki Macozoma, and Gloria Serobe of Wiphold financial services on the task team. He is the only academic in the group, and also the only one whose landline number happens to have an 021 prefix as the rest of the members hail from Gauteng.
Formerly the national director of equal opportunities/employment equity at the Department of Labour in Pretoria and founder-member/executive director of the BEEC, Mbabane brings some serious technical clout to the task team. It is this substantial experience and a self-described "big mouth" (over the past few months he has composed some caustic columns on the lethargic progress being made in the area of black economic empowerment) that contributed to his seat on the team.
And there are a number of things that will have to be addressed before the Bill goes to Parliament, he noted. Of concern to him are, among other things, the meagre levels of participation of black business in the economy, and the possibility that some industries need not worry about developing BEE strategies.
Such "untouchable" sectors wield sufficient economic power to force government to ease legislative pressure on them, Mbabane said. This, he feared, could lead to a similar situation to that in Malaysia in the 1970s and 1980s where its government had to set up some 1 000 parastatals to ensure that at least some fluence was passed from the puissant Chinese minority - the private sector was deliberately excluded from the new economic social policy in the "social contract" that was entered into by politicians - to the Malaysian majority.
On the other hand, promising signals include the R10-billion that finance minister Trevor Manuel recently pledged towards financing new black enterprises.
All in all, things promise to be interesting on the task team, Mbabane noted. And the dispatch from the Ministry could hardly have arrived in his post-box at a better time, coming just as he was putting the final touches to the GSB's first course on BEE - which he will present from June this year - and jotting down notes for his planned doctoral studies on the same topic.
Not only will his first-hand involvement in the government process feed directly into the course, but will also provide rich material for his PhD. "I can now not only shape my degree according to what's actually happening in the field, but also help the GSB make sure that its research is more current and relevant," he said.
"Things are just so perfectly aligned."