ELEVEN black professional associations have bemoaned the slow pace of economic transformation and have pointed to the 2,000-plus unemployed black engineers in SA to make their case.

They have also identified the government’s Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act as a stumbling block.

The Black Management Forum, the Association of Black Accountants of SA and the National Society of Black Engineers met President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria on Friday as part of a series of meetings between him and organised sectors.

The Black Management Forum issued a statement last week in which it said it was watching with a keen eye whether several companies that had vacancies would make black appointments or not.

The associations are expected to meet the president again after investigating concerns, including the efficacy of preferential procurement.

Mr Zuma said: "There was an observation made (during the meeting) that in every other country the majority of the citizens are in control economically, it is not the same here."

This needed to be tackled "properly" with an eye on economic growth, unemployment and poverty, said Mr Zuma, adding "so we will continue with the discussions".

"We agreed we are going to establish a small grouping, not a permanent one, from both sides, so they can look at the issues raised here (and) put them on record properly," Mr Zuma said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, National Society of Black Engineers president Siza Mthethwa said the 10% empowerment weighting in the procurement act was one of the issues that could "frustrate economic policies".

The role of the black associations was to examine what could be done "in implementing some of these policies and ... deal with the conflict that is created by (others)", said Mr Mthethwa.

"There is in excess of 2,000 black engineers that are unemployed in this country, a country which constantly says there is a shortage of engineers," observed Mr Mthethwa.

SA’s mining, construction, engineering and steel industries are all struggling.

Phuthanang Motsielwa, of the African Women Chartered Accountants, said procurement had been a "constant theme" of the meeting.

Although one or two black-owned auditing and advisory firms had made inroads, the field was likely to continue to be dominated by large foreign companies, said Ms Motsielwa.

Mr Zuma’s meeting with black professionals is expected to be followed by one with organised labour. The president expressed a willingness to engage with other organised sectors as part of a need for "people to talk to government".

The president’s sudden open-door policy approach comes on the heels of his state of the nation address in which he conceded that the country was being battered on the economic front.

The African National Congress (ANC) is also gearing up for crucial local government elections later this year, ahead of which racism and transformation are expected to feature heavily.