An interview with Mokgadi Rameetse, Accreditation Manager: B-BBEE at SANAS*
Mokgadi Rameetse, an Accreditation Manager at SANAS, is driven by an unwavering passion for South Africa and by her pursuit for meaningful transformation. According to Mokgadi, simply giving away company ownership to “tick a box” without receiving real value is short-sighted. It’s also bad for the economy and black economic empowerment (BEE) in general.
Mokgadi, an accountant-who then redirected her passion to become a-BEE advocate who is completing her MBA while being a mother of two “highly active” children, Mokgadi has been with SANAS for three years. She literally wakes up every day excited at the “opportunity to make a difference”. Her overriding drive is dispelling miseducation and misinformation around BEE and showing companies how they can benefit both the country and their own bottom line by implementing transformation policy the way it was intended.
Grant Thornton Verification Services interviewed Mokgadi as part of the firm honouring talented women this Women’s Month. The interview focused on understanding what drives her, and we gathered her insights on how broad-based black economic empowerment is benefiting or hampering business in South Africa.
Here is our interview:
How did you get here?
I have been with SANAS for three years. This is a very dynamic organisation and I enjoy working here. I was appointed as an accreditation manager, but I have been around the BEE space for quite some time.
My involvement in BEE started many years ago with Dr Robin Woolley, from whom I learned a lot about BEE. Almost everything I know about transformation is a credit to him. He’s a white person, but his passion and how he applies BEE policies is fascinating. He is incredibly passionate about helping people and making sure BEE is applied correctly.
When I met him he told me that BEE can benefit everyone. This was profound because at that point I did not understand BEE. You know, I thought “Oh okay, because I am a black person, it means BEE is all about us getting and getting.” But then he put it into perspective that if we can grow the economy, all of us will have a share, but if our economy is not growing we have a problem because then the pie remains small and we all want a share but it is not enough. So if we can all contribute positively, the economy will grow and our kids will have a future. I started to understand BEE from a broader perspective. I started to understand that if companies start to invest correctly they are investing in their future clients, future employees and future suppliers. So, it is not just that you are doing it to tick a box, but you are investing in growing your business. After working with Dr Woolley I worked at a multinational and a big retail company in SA (dealing with development and implementation of BEE) before joining SANAS.
What is your goal while working at SANAS?
My aim at SANAS is to make sure that policy is simplified and that people understand BEE policy and how to apply it. BEE codes of good practice is a wonderful piece of legislation that we have in South Africa. Unfortunately most people misinterpret this policy. Because they misinterpret it, they are fearful of really applying it. This is a problem because BEE legislation can, and should, work for both white and black people.
For instance, maybe a white person will hear about BEE and think it is about taking ownership of the company and just handing it to another person. This person will become fearful and think “I cannot take my legacy and give it to a black person”. But most people have applied BEE incorrectly and this has led to the fear because, to be honest, they have given stakes in their companies to people who are not contributing to their business.
They’ve done this just so they can say they have black ownership. Then, when you look at the value that person is bringing – it is zero, and that is dangerous because their business and economy suffers.
But, if you have given away a stake, let’s say for argument’s sake, to you employees, they will start performing better. They know they own a part of the company and they know they need to grow the company to get bigger bonuses and bigger dividends for their families, and their future is certain.
Which element of the amended codes do you see as the most beneficial for transformation amongst black women in South Africa?
Enterprise Development and Supply Development is a key driver to transformation It has 40 points , and it measures how the entity buys goods and services from empowered suppliers, or suppliers who have a strong BEE level, and for me it is the core of the BEE codes. Because, if big businesses can start to buy their goods and services from BEE-empowered suppliers the whole chain of BEE works. The intention is to assist small businesses, particularly black businesses, and accelerate growth and sustainability.
So, if you start to empower the ones that you have in your supply chain, BEE works well. The challenge with misunderstanding BEE legislation is that when people want to comply with Enterprise Development they want to change the suppliers that they have and to go over to black suppliers. No, you need to stick with your suppliers and teach them to be compliant. Because, if you just change them there are risks, quality risks and more, so you need to be sure that you don’t just change your business for the sake of BEE. It needs to make business sense: BEE needs to fit into your business strategy. You need to make sure you empower your current suppliers to have a recognised BEE accreditation because in that way the intended initiative of accelerating growth is fulfilled.
Which do you see as the most abused element of BEE?
Socio-Economic Development. People abuse that. and again, it is because of misunderstanding BEE. People think that Socio-Economic Development is just taking money and buying blankets for old people somewhere in Hamanskraal, for example. If you buy blankets for old-age people, how does that help the mainstream economy? It doesn’t help in any way.
But, if you invest in bursaries, for instance, then we are talking, because you are investing in the future of the children who will later contribute to the growth of the economy People abuse this element of BEE because they do not understand that their actions need to have a material impact on the lives of people.
Do you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in and what you’re committed to in your work and life?
In my answer about how I got here, I spoke about Dr Robin Woolley. He is definitely a major influence in my professional life. On a personal level, I have a friend called Shoki Motau who works for a risk assessment firm. She is a single mother of three – she has mentored me to be strong and to realise that “life does not revolve around you, so get over it and get on with it”. I met her as she was going through a divorce and she was so strong that I followed her approach.
What is your favourite part of your role at SANAS?
The platform to reach out and empower people with information on how they can benefit from government’s policies. Also, the exposure to deal with and know about, different businesses. I deal with many businesses in this job. Because of where I am, being as close as I am to the Department of Trade and Industry, I also get to understand the intention behind government’s policies. I love my work.
What advice would you give to women at the beginning of their career path?
Find yourself. I am an accountant by trade but I was getting bored with numbers. Then, when I met Dr Robin Woolley, I discovered my purpose and passion in life. I love working with people, so I started nurturing the HR and BEE side of things. Dr Woolley showed me what hard work is so I realised that if I want to get somewhere I need to focus. So the next step after finding yourself would be focus: focus is key to what you want to achieve. Passion and focus. If you are still young you can change your career.
Now that IRBA will no longer be involved in BEE verification, what do you believe this means for the future of verification?
It will mean consistency in the application of policies. B-BBEE Approved registered auditors (BARs) were using the Standard for B-BBEE Assurance Engagements (SASAE), and the SANAS verification agency is using the Verification Manual in their function. We can now measure transformation in the country using a single standard. I think it will help the BEE commissioner as well to measure transformation in the country correctly. So, I think it is a good thing that we are going to have one verification body, until the dti decides to appoint a Regulator.
*SANAS - South African National Accreditation System
SANAS is the national body responsible for accrediting B-BBEE Verification Agencies