Tebogo Khaas, President of SA's SMME Forum

South Africa’ s SMME Forum has criticised plans for a new charter on black economic empowerment in the ICT sector.

SA’ s ICT empowerment charter has been years in the making, and is intended to allow for the empowerment of previously disadvantaged population groups.

The SA SMME Forum said in a statement today that it was “ disturbed and astounded by recent media reports indicating that the ICT Charter is due for implementation in April 2011.”

The statement by SMME Forum President Tebogo Khaas read: “ As a signatory to the Charter process, the Forum is concerned that such a crucial step could be taken without due consultation with all relevant or interested stakeholders. We firmly believe that the Department of Communication should seek wider industry approval of the Charter before gazetting the document.

“ The Forum is concerned that a few individuals with vested self-interests in the process may be behind moves to circumvent necessary industry approval of the document before it comes into effect. Any attempts at ignoring relevant industry role players could potentially trigger unnecessary legal interventions by disaffected players.”

Khaas said the Forum felt there were still a lot of unresolved issues affecting small business which the final charter needed to factor. He said: “ Also, the ICT landscape has changed dramatically since the final draft of the Charter was released more than 5 years ago. It is therefore imperative that ratification of a new industry covenant be more inclusive as opposed to what is now becoming apparent.”

“ We therefore call on all role-players to not act in haste but with diligence and forbearance as we drive for the long-awaited transformation of the sector.”

Khaas said the forum would call for an urgent meeting with the Minister and the steering committee in order to alleviate any possible discord.

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