Independent News needs to meet state targets

October 14, 2009
By Thabiso Mochiko

The Independent Newspapers Group has achieved a level five black empowerment contributor rating but acknowledged that more needed to be done to meet the government targets.

Independent Newspapers, which has scored well in enterprise development, preferential procurement and socio economic development, aims to focus more on skills development and training, and also adding more black people at senior management positions.

Independent Newspapers executive director in charge of group operations Nazeem Howa said he was “quite pleased” with the rating – the company’s first.

He was particularly pleased with the score achieved on employment equity, saying that it showed the results of “hard work”.

The company would be focusing on the advancement of black women, especially at an executive level.

He said the skills development component had been dragged down by poor record keeping.

This was being beefed up and this would be reflected in next year’s score.

The group is also launching a cadet school in the next few months, which will help.

Independent Newspapers, the publisher of The Star, Cape Times, Mercury and Business Report, is wholly-owned by Ireland based Independent News and Media Group.

Howa said the company fell short when it came to the appointment of black board directors but this, like ownership, was a shareholder issue.

Avusa, the owner of the Sunday Times, is a level four contributor and is 53 percent black ownership.

Avusa’s chief executive Prakash Desai said Avusa had adopted the spirit of empowerment and were not guided only by legislative requirements.

Naspers, the owner of Media24 sold 15 percent in subsidiary Media24, which houses titles such as the Daily Sun, FinWeek and Beeld, to black investors rather than at group level. Media24 is a level four contributor.

Andile Tlhoaele, the chairman of Association of BEE Verification Agencies (ABVA), said yesterday being a level four contributor meant that for every R1 that an advertiser spent in a newspaper, the advertiser can claim to have contributed R1 to black empowerment.

For level three, which is a higher rating, the advertisers can claim back R1.35 while 80 cents for level five, makes it expensive for clients to do business with a company as it made it difficult for those clients to meet their black empowerment targets.

“We are at a stage where BEE is all about rands and cents. It’s a cascading effect,” he said.

Gavin Levenstein, director at EconoBEE, said procurement was “undoubtedly the most important aspect” to ensure empowerment was widely implemented by all companies in South Africa.

Companies with a high BEE rating level were more likely to have more customers as it also boosted their customers’ black empowerment score for preferential procurement.

Avusa, Independent and Media24 met the socio-economic development and enterprise development score card target of 5 and 15 respectively.

Levenstein said that socio economic development and enterprise development targets were areas to earn quick points.

“There are few people that have money to buy shares in a company but a large number of people who require social support to become economically active,” he said.

Levenstein was not surprised that targets on management, employment equity and also skills development were not reached as these are difficult points to earn saying that there was a small pool of black managers available but continuous training and mentoring would boost scorecard points.

“Skills development though is the most valuable element on the BEE scorecard adding the greatest benefit to true empowerment,” he said.

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