The acting commissioner of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Commission, Zodwa Ntuli, has taken to social media to give the department of trade and industry’s views on the debate concerning “naturalised citizens”.
The debate was sparked by the furore around how some members of the Gupta family came to be South African citizens. The new Mining Charter also unexpectedly makes mention of naturalised citizens, which struck many as quite a coincidence.
Over the weekend, following media reports that Luthuli House had summoned Mining Minister Mosebenzi Zwane to explain the furore around the revised Mining Charter, social media debated whether “the architects of the revised charter may have had the Guptas in mind when they quietly slipped in the line on naturalisation”.
The Guptas are an immigrant family from India who moved to South Africa in 1993 from the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Here is the definition of black people as it is in the B-BBEE Act as amended in 2013. The term ‘naturalised citizen’ is consistent with B-BBEE Act, but that naturalisation is limited by pre-1994 circumstances.
Speaking to The Citizen, Ntuli said the debate should not be restricted to the Mining Charter alone, as it speaks to the fair and consistent application of the B-BEEE Act and its exclusionary clauses.
She told The Citizen that she was aware the question had been raised in relation to the Gupta family, but did not want to address that matter directly. However, her clarification made it clear that anyone naturalised as a South African after 1994 would struggle to be classified as “Black”, according to the B-BEEE Act.
“The objective of the Act is to redress the imbalance of the past; we are saying that if you were naturalised prior to 1994 as a black African, chances are you would have been prejudiced like the majority of black South Africans during apartheid.
“To put it in simple terms, if you were naturalised in 2000 this does not mean that you will automatically qualify for B-BEEE benefits as the Act states, and this is the commission’s position,” she said.
The contentious clause in the Mining Charter relates to the definition of “black person”, described as a generic term which means Africans, Coloureds and Indians.
The new charter appears to imply that you can be black, whether you became a citizen before or after 1994.
“Black Person” is a generic term which means Africans, Coloureds and Indians-
(a) Who are citizens of the Republic of South Africa by birth or descent; or
(b) Who became citizens of the Republic of South Africa by naturalisation:
(i) before 27 April 1994; or
(ii) on or after 27 April 1994 and who would have been entitled to acquire citizenship by naturalisation prior to that date.
Social media users have questioned what the provision “on or after 27 April 1994” was for, and who would have been entitled to “acquire citizenship by naturalisation prior to that date” and what it means.