South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel says the country?s black economic empowerment policy is being abused ? and that some blacks are being hired as tokens. Manuel?s comments ? which appeared in the Financial Times ? is stirring debate over legislation passed four years ago.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service Reporter Joe De Capua about the finance minister?s criticisms.

?I think the main complaints are two-fold, really. One is that the beneficiaries of black economic empowerment in the black community are very few. And they seem to be repeated in new deals over and over again. So that a few people are making a lot of money and a lot of people are being missed out.

?The other complaint is that some white businesses use the black economic empowerment requirements cynically. And that is that they will appoint somebody or sell shares to somebody in the black community in order to meet their requirements, but that in fact those people do not have any say in how the business is run,? she says.

The Finance Ministry is reported to be downplaying Manuel?s remarks. Robertson says, ?I think often what happens (is) ministers say things, sometimes controversial things, to put something out in the public domain for debate and discussion. And then sort of back away from it a little so that they don?t get perhaps tainted by it?and what he said is probably not popular with people on both ends of the scale, people who he is targeting in his comments. But in fact the government has already made clear that the BEE, black economic empowerment regulations, need to be reviewed. Even President Mbeki has said so in the past because there are problems with them.?