Posted: August 31, 2023
The Chairperson of the Commission for Gender Equality
Director General of the Department of Women, Youth, Persons with Disabilities
Acting Director General of Department of Small Business Development
Commissioner of the B-BBEE Commission,
All the Speakers, Facilitator, Programme Director
Ladies and Gentlemen
Once again, I must take this opportunity to thank the B-BBEE Commission for organizing such a round table Session, dedicated to into putting a strategic focus on women, black women and the economy.
As I said before, if we don’t put a magnifying glass on a continuous basis towards women progress in the corporate sector, we will be failing against the struggles that the 20 000 strong women march of the 09th of August in 1956 laid as a basis for women power. That march was a specific united action by women for emancipation and empowerment.
We, who have been given a privilege to occupy public institutions as women, must take a lead in leapfrogging women in all areas of influence; we must push them for leadership in our state-owned enterprises’ boards and as CEOs, head of Chapter Nine institutions, head of Courts, institutions of higher learning as Deans and Vice Chancellors, but critically, we must openly fight for women to occupy corporate ladders as CEOs and Board chairpersons. We must support women-owned companies and promote women corporate leadership.
In this regard, I want to congratulate Kumba Iron Ore for appointing a black woman as its CEO, Mpumi Zikalala, who started last year and delivered sterling results, creating value for this mine against the turf environment. I am singling out this appointment because mining has always been seen as a male space, not for women.
Our freedom came with the capacity to influence laws and policies that are meant to benefit women of South Africa. And so, we gather here to also count the gains we have made to emancipate women since the dawn of democracy. We cannot do so without reflecting.
It is for this reason that B-BBEE as well as Gender Equality policy and legislation are fundamentally important as complementary tools for economic justice for black people and women in particular.
Gender policy and legislation are complementary in the pursuit of economic justice for black people and women. This is important to emphasize because there has been an unjustified attacked directed at government for implementing these policies as instruments for social and economic levelling of fields.
To remind our ourselves, the B-BBEE Act derives its mandate from Section 9 of the Constitution of South Africa which makes provision for “equality”. Section 1(c) of the B-BBEE Act expressly includes the beneficiaries of B-BBEE, and designated groups such as black youth, women, people living with disabilities as well as people living in rural and underdeveloped areas. Similarly, Section 9 of the Constitution also makes reference to equality in the context of gender, in response to historical socio-economic imbalances that emanate from the legacy of apartheid.
However, the purpose of these transformation policies and laws will not be achieved without proper and effective implementation; and implementation will not materialise without active campaigning, as well as advocacy by civil society structures and organisations that represent women and black people.
It is for this reason that today’s event is an important platform for reflection, exchange and strategizing on how to make sure that implementation tools for the empowerment of women and black people, work better to achieve their purpose.
Black women remain the most disadvantaged sector in SA society, with only 30% of African women engaged in formal sector economic activities. Black women have benefited little from BEE initiatives thus far.
The Commission on Gender Equality conducted a survey on 103 listed companies of the JSE and they found that only 2 African females held non-executive positions. This is shameful to say the least.
In light of this, we need to ask a question: what has changed? And what progress have we made in advancing the economic empowerment of women and black people, in general. The next question is, what needs to be done?
In 2020, the National Status Report on B-BBEE (National Trends) depicted a gloomy picture. It illustrated how women in the economy, in management control and ownership scorecard are still far below acceptable levels in terms of companies’ agenda of inclusion. Majority of women still don’t sit in company boards where decisions and votes are made, this is evident even where they have 50% shareholding or above. Key to our responsibility as government is to discourage women from accepting “silent control” in companies without decision-making. We must fight against corporate patriarchy where women are bullied into inactive silent partners status, only good enough for receiving dividends without board participation.
To illustrate this with one sector, research showed then that only 10% of women in South Africa are involved in the Executive decision-making within the financial sector. These areas of concern have been and continues to be a source of concerns for many women in the corporate environment.
The B-BBEE Commission has made good strides in the promotion of transformation as well as taking stock of the progress in meeting obligations under the codes of good practice. In doing so, the B-BBEE Commission releases annual reports for the National Status and Trends on the implementation of B-BBEE. These reports reveals a concerning picture about the progress on ownership for black women owned entities.
In recent years, especially between 2020 and 2022 there has been a stagnation in the economy and in relation to Black Women Ownership which has not improved from 14%. The truth is that progress has been very slow.
The gap between Black Women Ownership and overall black ownership has persisted over time, since the establishment of the B-BBEE Commission as a regulator.
We need to ask ourselves, why are we in this position we find ourselves as women. As Commission for Gender Equality, the Department of Women, Children and People with Disability and other non-state actors in the gender mainstreaming, including Women political parties putting enough fight?
We need to ask why there is a gap between policy and implementation. In this regard, we wish to hear from the CGE on what is their experience on the matter. When I addressed B-BBEE Commission in 2020 in August, we celebrated the announcement by President Ramaphosa on setting aside 40% public procurement for women owned companies. This was a huge decision for women in business in our country. We are three years down the line, all indications points to no implementation as yet. Who is monitoring this implementation from all government Departments supply chain management and state-owned enterprises supply chains?
I think B-BBEE Commission and Commission for Gender Equality must take the lead on enforcement of this 40% set-aside by President aggressively in all government agencies, provincial government and even municipalities. I know that B-BBEE Commission faces staff capacity issues.
Colleagues, if we don’t become guerrillas for women economic empowerment, and fight like we are in a battlefield, no men will fight our battles unless we lead it from the front!
The CEOs of state-owned enterprises must be made to account about 40% set-aside; DGs and HoDs in provinces including Municipal Managers must be taken to task by the Commission and B-BBEE Commission, on quarterly basis. We cannot afford to be casual on these questions of transformation.
In terms of our current population figures, the number of women exceeds that of men and we are bound to see further stagnation on the economic growth of the country if we cannot increase participation of women who are in the majority in relation to population figures.
In 2019, I addressed an audience at the B-BBEE Commission’s Women’s Conference in Limpopo. In the run up to the conference I made a plea for women to take up opportunities within the B-BBEE Act as well as programmes of the dtic which are purpose built for women. In one of its resolutions, the conference decided that there was a need for corporate governance training targeting women countrywide, which is an important tool for developing and improving the skills of women who are responsible for growing their businesses.
I am pleased to inform you that the conference resolution has now been put in place.
As I speak to you today, a team at the B-BBEE Commission is currently rolling out the corporate governance training programme countrywide. In total, all nine provinces will have benefited from this opportunity by March 2024.
By the end of this financial year, the B-BBEE Commission would have completed the project with 500 women who will receive training on corporate governance. I therefore thank the Commission for this initiative.
We need to undertake more of these initiatives to take advantage of opportunities within the economy. In this regard the private sector can make a major contribution considering the resources and capacity at their disposal as well as their B-BBEE compliance requirements – and these include skills development, enterprise and supplier development, and socio-economic development.
The Department of Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities have made great strides in mainstreaming women’s rights and government economic women policies.
the dtic remains committed to advancing pro-women programmes that are tailor made for the upliftment of women and increase their participation into the mainstream economy.
The B-BBEE Commission is crucial with regard to the research and reports, as well as outreach activities. This work must be expanded and strengthened, along with partnerships with other organisations such as the CGE and various research institutions.
One of my concerns which I have raised consistently with the B-BBEE Commission – and I know it relates to its internal capacity as well – that we are not effective in conducting inspections and doing company’s compliance reports which we rely on consulting agencies which may be prone to many other commercial influences when compiling these compliance reports. Again, our legislation as an instrument is not empowered to bite to those companies defying to comply with B-BBEE regulations. From where I am sitting, the authority of the Commission by law must be strengthen to bite more like the Competition Commission does on market inquiry outcomes.
In this regard, I wish this 2023 round table engagement under the auspices of the Commission all the best.