The constitutional framework for broad-based black economic empowerment
Janse van Rensburg, Adri
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The negative impact of the apartheid regime’s policies on the social, political and economic conditions of the majority of the population is well established and persists into the present day South Africa. The South African Constitution acknowledges this negative legacy, but also contains a vision of the type of society it envisages for South Africa. The inclusion of values, principles and rights on which this new society is based does not, by virtue of its design, erase all the consequences of the previous discriminatory policies. Simply removing discriminatory legislation and practices cannot alleviate the injustice and poverty that resulted from 40 years of oppressive legislation and government policies. Implicit in this constitutional vision are remedial and restitutionary measures for the achievement of the constitutional goal of a free, prosperous and egalitarian South African society. Illustrative of this fundamental commitment, several constitutional provisions, directly or indirectly, sanction remedial measures to address remaining injustices. Different types of remedial measures are envisaged, namely affirmative action programmes, a government policy of preferential procurement, and Black Economic Empowerment. The constitutional imperative for policy tools to transform the South African economy in particular, by means of black economic empowerment is therefore clear. In this study the legacy of apartheid, with specific reference to the economic aspect thereof, is researched. From this it becomes clear that transformation in the way economic resources are divided is necessary. The enactment of specific legislation dealing with the subject resulted from the recognition of the need for regulatory intervention to give momentum to the process of reform. The B-BBEE Act and its Codes of Good Practice provide the foundation for the drafting and implementing of the BBBEE programme. The B-BBEE programme’s operation is analysed in order to draw conclusions on the constitutionality thereof. Within the framework of the Constitution, several provisions empower the state to adopt remedial measures to correct systemic injustice. The most apparent of these is the right to equality in section 9. It provides that everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law and entrenches the right not to be discriminated against, either directly or indirectly, on a number of specifically enumerated and analogous grounds. Section 9(2) makes specific provision for remedial measures, not as an exception to the equality guarantee, but rather an extension thereof — a restitutionary equality conception. In the Preamble to the B-BBEE Act it is stated that one of the objectives with the Act is to “promote the achievement of the constitutional right to equality”. The right to equality therefore occupies a central place in any constitutional discussion on the B-BBEE programme. The position on the constitutional validity of affirmative action measures, and therefore also the B-BBEE programme, is currently governed by the Constitutional Court’s decision in Minister of Finance v Van Heerden, where the Court formulated three elements for a valid section 9(2) measure. The Court’s approach in the Van Heerden case was therefore analysed in order to make a determination of the constitutionality of black economic empowerment measures. However, in order to place B-BBEE in its constitutional context the totality of constitutional provisions which touch on the programme, that is both mandating and limiting provisions, was considered. The practical operation of the programme was analysed and that information was used to draw conclusions on the constitutionality of the programme when placed in the framework provided by the relevant constitutional provisions. Recommendations were also offered which could address some of the problematic aspects of the programme identified.
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