While political parties are fumbling the political football that is the proposed new regulations that will give effect to the Employment Equity Amendment Bill, activists have grabbed the ball and are running with it. They have taken up the cause to convince government to abandon the regulations which could be a major blow to people classified as Coloured setting them at a further disadvantage for generations to come.
Specifically Regulation R37338 28/2/2014 Section D 3.1 and 3.2 require that national demographics should be used by all companies with staff of 150 or more in the three top tier senior positions, with regional demographics only applied in the bottom three tiers. This would mean that in regions or provinces where Coloureds (or as in the case of Indians in KZN) constiture a larger proportion of the economically active population than what they are represented in the national demographics, they will not be considered for senior positions and notwithstanding their merits, would be relegated to blue collar jobs.
Though this issue was first highlighted in mainstream media when Western Cape ANC leader Marius Fransman spoke out against the regulations saying that the provincial structures of his party will challenge the national government on the matter, member of the Kullid Foundation, Jerome Lottering of Eldorado Park in Gauteng and former Western Cape Premier turned activist Peter Marais who is deputy chairperson of the Brown Empowerment Movement (BEM) were already agitating public discourse. They have since brought together various groupings, organisations and smaller political parties who focus on the rights of those classified as Coloured in a campaign to have the offending regulations scrapped.
Ronald Dyers from the Kullid Foundation believes that government’s actions are a form of social engineering similar to the apartheid government’s forced removals, where in it forced people from their homes and land to accommodate white people. "This move by government is the strongest indication yet that it supports the call by Jimmy Manyi two years ago for Coloured people to migrate to other provinces in an attempt to find work," says Dyers. As an organisation that's at the coalface of issues affecting coloured people, Dyers notes that they are being inundated by stories from people throughout South Africa who have been marginalised through the Affirmative Action policies.
"This policy of government to disadvantage an already disadvantaged community in an attempt to uplift another disadvantaged community is ridiculous," notes Dyers. Coloured communities are already in the grip of drugs and gangsterism because of unemployment and implementing this policy will just worsen this situation. Dyers says they will seek clarification from Minister Mildred Olifant’s department regarding the proposed amendments failing which it will challenge it in court.
The assertions by Marius Fransman that the Western Cape ANC will fight the proposed regulations are of course being met with more than just a bit of caution and some commentators are accusing him of swinging carrots at Coloured voters ahead of the upcoming national elections.
Whatever gains the ANC may think it has made in the province are at risk of being completely eroded.
In what I can only describe as their usual reactionary mode, the DA, a week later started making utterances about the regulations and eventually applied the full weight of their rhetoric to the issue when Hellen Zille declared that this is "The Revenge of a “Worst Order” Racist" and said that Verwoerd must be dancing with delight in his grave.
I'm wondering why the ultimate racist would be delighted that whites are lowest in the pecking order...
Almost amusingly Corne Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus added his voice to the issue and suggested that voters cannot trust the motives of either of the WC ANC leadership or the DA. His statements are however clear on their position and actually acknowledges the efforts of former premier Marais and the other activists.
The problem I have with the promised attempts by the provincial structures of the Western Cape ANC and possibly the Northern Cape ANC to take a stand against their national structure is that it seems the numbers are stacked against them. Even if they don't get completely shouted down, and rationale prevails for a second, they will probably compromise in some way or another so that at least the carrot gets some sugar as well. It will however for many voters still seem to just be a carrot.
As for the two white-dominated parties mentioned above, one could argue that it would be natural for them to fight the regulations not for the sake of the Coloured populations but for the mere fact that the regulations will, if applied, affect whites too. What's bad for Coloureds will definitely be seen by them as worse for whites.
Always paranoid, they seem unaware that for most of them, they have inherrited a decent amount of padding to cushion them against such regulations for generations to come.
The only real hope is for people classified as Coloured, whether they subscribe to the term or not, all take a stand, set their political affiliations aside and at the very least support the activists who will in the next two weeks be gathering signatures on petitions all over the country and also signing the online petitions that will be spread across social media in the next few days.
According to Jerome Lottering, a march is being planned to deliver the petitions, both hand signed and digital, to parliament in Cape Town around the end of March and a date will be confirmed as soon as the logistics thereof are finalised.
The freedoms we have gained from the struggle against apartheid were gained in large part by the efforts of activists and the finer details were then negotiated by politicians. Indeed many activists became politicians. It seemed for a short while that the new South Africa would not have much use for activism against social and political injustices. How wrong we were.
The role of an activists is to hold politicians to account. If we solely rely on politicians to negotiate and decide our future, we are all doomed. If we are not vigilant, the freedoms we won yesterday can easily enslave us tomorrow.