One of South Africa’s leading female entrepreneurs has urged black businesses to protect the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) policy from fronting practices and use it to attract more investment into the country.
Gloria Serobe, the executive director of Women’s Investment Portfolio Holdings Limited (WIPHOLD) and chief executive of Wipcapital, said she was embarrassed that the department of trade and industry (the dti) had to create the office of the ombudsman to prevent fronting practices.
According to the B-BBEE Act, companies found guilty of fronting can be fined up to 10% of their turnover, or 10% in prison for their directors.
“I must say that the most embarrassing thing for me was for the department to even have to decide to have an ombudsman for fronting for BEE [Black Economic Empowerment] policy. This is a policy, which is meant to enable us, take us forward and benefit us,” Serobe said.
“If us, as BEE players, we cannot defend and protect it to the extent that actually need a policeman to watch us against fronting, that embarrassed me to no end.”
Serobe was speaking on Thursday night at the 4th annual South African Premier Business Awards, where she was bestowed with the Lifetime Achiever Award for her more than 30 years of experience in leading public and private domestic and multinational institutions.
WIPHOLD is an investment and operating company owned and managed entirely by black women with interests in key sectors of the economy, from mining and agriculture to cement manufacturing and financial services.
The company has emerged as one of the leading cement suppliers in the country through its R1.6 billion state-of-the-art cement production facility near Northam, in Limpopo.
Serobe said the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) stakeholders should make the policy attractive to investors instead of exploiting it.
“I would like to believe that with time we will take responsibility for it and give it the credibility that we should give it, even sustainability and dignity such that foreign investors can look up to it as being that policy which was necessary to enable, but not a policy which allowed for fronting,” Serobe said.
Commenting on Serobe’s achievements, dti Minister Rob Davies congratulated her, saying she had always reached for the glass ceiling, aiming to shatter it for herself and women after her.
“Her efforts over three decades aimed at transforming the national socioeconomic fabric culminated in her establishing WIPHOLD. South Africans like Ms Serobe inspire the nation that when excellence is a way of life, success is assured,” Davies said.
The annual South African Premier Business Awards, held under the theme “Rewarding Business Excellence”, are a key feature on the the dti calendar and celebrate national corporate excellence and success.
They awards jointly hosted by the dti, Brand South Africa and Proudly South African. Tsogo Sun, Old Mutual and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are sponsors to the awards.
Categories included the Enterprise Development Support Award, the Manufacturer Award, Investor of the Year Award, the Exporter Award, the Black Industrialist Award, the Proudly South African Award, the Young Entrepreneur Award and others.