President Zuma made some interesting remarks over the weekend in Cape Town in his attempt to woe ‘Coloured’ people to vote for the ANC. According to him ‘Coloureds’ are also regarded as beneficiaries of affirmative action.
The following Draft Employment Equity Regulations of 2014 however tell a different story.
It reads as follows:
- “In setting numerical goals and targets, employers can use the demographic profile of the national and regional active population applicable to them.
– A designated employer employing 150 or more employees should use the national economically active population (EAP) for the upper three levels (viz. Top Management, Senior Management and Professionally Qualified), and an average of the national and regional economically active population for the lower levels (viz. Skilled Technical, Semi-skilled and Unskilled) as a guide in setting their numerical goals and targets in their employment equity plans.
– A designated employer employing 149 or less employees should use the national economically active population for the upper two levels (viz. Top Management and Senior Management), and the regional economically active population for the lower levels (viz. Professionally Qualified, Skilled Technical, Semi-skilled and Unskilled) as a guide in setting their numerical goals and targets in their employment equity plans.”
So who’s fooling who President Zuma?
Trying to sugar coat Apartheid-based race classifications with wording such as ‘provincial and national’ demographics does not only remind us of a terrible past of discrimination, forced removals and job reservation based on ethnicity and skin colour, but more so it makes a mockery of the ideals of a non-racial state as envisaged by our National Constitution.
The majority of South Africans understand the role of government in putting measures in place to overcome the legacies of the past and to ensure that the private and public sector take active steps to ensure that those who were deliberately excluded from becoming senior managers based on their ethnic background.
This is certainly possible in an enabling environment where all people regardless of ethnic background can flourish and nurture their talents. A rigid application of the proposed regulations seeking redress by means of setting numerical goals and targets is however not only inherently discriminatory and unconstitutional, but it will intensify social tension in a province such as the Western Cape.
What we now need more than ever is a pro-business policy environment and a combined government and private sector effort to transfer skills and knowledge to young South Africans regardless of race. We need to prepare South Africa’s future work force for the work place as best as we can. This is only possible through empowering them with the competencies, building character, developing shared values, instilling a culture of creativity and technological savviness.
As in any open society, the most talented will certainly work their way up in senior positions, thus ensuring a South African corporate and entrepreneurial environment and talent driven society which will compete with the best in the world. This is what real transformation is all about.
Trying to sneak Apartheid-based race classifications through the back door and to just focus on reaching numerical targets based on such classifications however, will achieve the opposite of transformation, which is mediocrity at best!
More worrying is the fact that we repeat the mistakes of the past by limiting promotion opportunities at junior, middle and senior management level for a particular section of our community. And in this case we will assign ‘Coloured’ community again to a lower status in society by limiting their career prospects.
What did they do to deserve such punishment? More so what did they do to not being recognised as African? Is this mere ignorance or a complete disregard of this community?
By the way isn’t everyone who is born on this beloved continent of ours regardless of skin colour or cultural orientation and who contributes to the development of Africa, an African?
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Christo van der Rheede hails from the Western Cape where he grew up along the West Coast. He holds a BA degree from the University of Western Cape and several post graduate diplomas from the Stellenbosh Graduate School of Business including an MPA from the Stellenbosch School of Public Management and Planning respectively. He writes in his personal capacity and covers topics on entrepreneurship, politics and community development.