....article dated 4 June 2021…..

Minister to fix black empowerment targets         

 

Minister Thulas Nxesi, in leading the presentation of Department of  Employment and Labour (DEL) responses to submissions on the proposed Employment Equity (EE) Amendment Bill made it quite clear that he had no intention of relaxing the pressure on business and industry to increase its pace of black empowerment.

In his opening statement to MPs of the parliamentary committee of labour, he said the time had come to realize the original agreements made with business to implement government B-BBEE had not had a positive result.  His view was that the new proposals in terms of the EE Act were now required and in any case they were going to make the whole process of gradual black empowerment easier to administer and with considerably less red tape.

Not particularly interested

Thembinkosi Mkhaliphi, chief director of labour relations, led the DEL presentation which was to summate the government’s response to over fifty submissions from the business sector on the recently tabled EE Amendment Bill, the hearings being conducted beforehand by Lindelwa Dunjwa (ANC), chairperson of the labour parliamentary committee.

Mkhaliphi from the outset indicated that most of the complaints put forward in submissions were not new and it became apparent as he proceeded with his slide show that almost none of the requests had been accommodated, other than the Minister would again consult each sector with his final decision on the target to be set for that sector.

Strong objections

In the final count, the Committee noted, 56.5% of the submissions were not in support of the proposals, the area of major disagreement being the clauses by which the Minister was proposing to achieve faster transformation.  43.5% of submissions were partially in support of the Bill, with varying changes to suggest.

Mostly, they were also in total disagreement with the process by which DEL will select targets and the absence of any agreed process by which the Minister would set them.  It was also claimed in many of the submissions that when it came to the setting of sector-specific targets for industry, the manner of application proposed was far too broad for any serious or practical application at workshop or floor level.

Tougher stance

The Bill was first introduced by Minister of Labour, Thulas Nxesi, in July 2019, proposing a number of radical changes to equity law, seen as essentially taking back what as a “voluntary” system of equity target setting by business and industry and substituting this with a system whereby the Minister runs the show, sets the targets and disciplines defaulters.

The Bill was considerably delayed by the spread of the Covid 19 pandemic, thus not contributing to the governing party’s policy of insistence on the speeding up of transformation, which issue was expressed as urgent at the last ANC conference.

The “EE Bill” has been adopted as a major platform for Department of Labour policy and execution in the current period and the message clearly conveyed to Alliance MPs for the Bill to be in force by the end of 2021/22.

Further debate on this Bill will take place before Parliament closes but it is quite likely that in the rush to push legislation through beforehand, the Bill might proceed with Minister Nxesi’s concession on targets being the only departure from the original Bill tabled.

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