At first I didn't pay much attention to this FM article.
The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) has said it will force its winning bidder to accept a BEE partner chosen by the agency. It says such a measure would help it to prevent politically connected empowerment partners from benefiting from infrastructure development. The policy is mooted in place of the company selecting its own BEE partner, as has been the practice.
This is nothing new to parastatals. I've twice done work for a major power supplier and have been told that 30% of the business must be allocated to a nominated black business in a similar field. In one case the black business owners didn't even bother to come and meet us or find out what the project was about. They placed two contractors on the job who became our responsibility. The contractors were eager, capable and a pleasure to work with but it's very likely that they were paid a miniscule amount for their efforts. Their employers, however got paid very well for nothing. Admittedly we were completely remiss for not insisting that they do get involved.
There is a sort of mutually assured destruction in this relationship – the primary contractor is forced into this relationship and cannot be sure that the other party will perform and so they will do all the work, even at a discounted rate, without the involvement of the other party. They won't complain to the major power utility about this relationship for fear that they do not get any work from said utility in future. And the smaller partner is aware of this.
Whether this partnering results in a shotgun wedding or not is of little consequence to me (read the article to get the context). I would like to postulate a possible rationale behind this policy. This is pure speculation but fits in comfortably with my love of conspiracy theories. The heroes of my theory are the Black Business Council. A body that commands such respect and stature that they find it unnecessary to have even a Facebook page. Some have speculated that this organisation is racist, and others welcome it. I believe that it has arisen as a vehicle for a series of suspects (usual or otherwise) to grab a slice of the private sector because the public sector pie is not quite what it was.
There is a challenge facing our BBC heroes in getting access to the private sector's benevolence Unfortunately they have made it very clear where they stand and who they support. The Reuel Khoza saga (who should be awarded the highest accolade South Africa can award a citizen) allowed the BBC to take a different tack to other organisations. Their leader (I'm sorry, I meant spokesman) Sandile Zungu made the following statement
The spokesman for the BBC, Sandile Zungu, said the council was not convinced of the wisdom of choosing to use the medium of the Nedbank annual report, a publicly-listed company, to launch a full frontal assault on political leadership, in government or elsewhere. "We believe that the grave reservations that Nedbank may harbour about how our country is led, could have been raised more constructively in its regular engagements with the Registrar of Banks and Treasury, and perhaps through the associations that it is ultimately affiliated to," Zungu said.
In other words the BBC is really saying that business should really be polite about our inept government who squanders their tax money on everything but the welfare of South Africans. You can't really blame Zungrabber for saying this – he is known to be really tight with the über-married one; he's not going to go against his meal ticket. But in so doing it is possible that the private sector is not going to embrace the BBC that overtly. So how do you go about ensuring that you carry on hogging the honeypot? Simple – you get your parastatal buddies to force you onto winning bidders for tenders.
It's almost too simple.
As a postscript – I wonder what is going to happen to Zungrabber once showerhead is no longer head honcho of the great party of the struggle (but little else).
Come on Billy – sing us to sleep