Msholozi, don’t lead us into apartheid

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

On 28 February, labour minister Mildred Oliphant published regulations made in terms of the Employment Equity Act for public comment.

If you are a South African of Indian descent, as I am, you should be very concerned about this.

Let me rephrase that. You should be more than concerned; you should be outraged.

But let me step back a bit. Act 55 of 1998 as the Employment Equity Act is formally known, started on a very good premise. The premise was that for years under apartheid, certain categories of people had been unfairly discriminated against. The act proposed corrective action to correct imbalances brought about by that discrimination.

The act was signed into law by then president Nelson Mandela. In keeping with the philosophy of the ANC and the Freedom Charter, the act at the time drew no distinction between historically disadvantaged communities.

No matter what the boers considered you to be – and whatever derogatory label they used – the act considered you equally discriminated against and an equal candidate for affirmative action.1

Now, 20 years into democracy, Minister Oliphant has driven a truck through the Mandela ethos. In terms of her regulations, there are now different categories of blackness. And if you happen to be “Indian” or “coloured”, in most cases you are worse off than if you are “white”.

Here’s how the regulations are structured.

Firstly, they tie the concept of affirmative action to demographics. What this means is that they tie the concept of whether you qualify for affirmative action to how many people in your category are represented as a percentage of the population.

In other words, if you are a “coloured” person in the Western Cape where your category represents almost half the population, there should be a greater representation of your kind than in Limpopo province. If you are an “Indian” person in the Western Cape, you should have fewer positions available to you than in KwaZulu-Natal.

Note that the regulations lump “Indians” and “coloureds” into specific categories, but “Africans” are taken as a whole. In other words, you can be a Venda person in the Eastern Cape, which is overwhelmingly populated by Xhosas, but you get the benefit of being treated as a Xhosa.

But wait, it gets better.

You might say to yourself that there is nothing really unfair about demographic representation; there are more “Indians” in KZN and so there should be more positions available.

Actually, the books are cooked.

Indians in KZN will qualify for 7 percent of affirmative action positions, but only at the lowest level of employment: skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled.

But if you are in the top three tiers of employment (top management, senior management, and professionally qualified), the regulations require that you use national demographics instead of regional demographics.

In other words, if you are a business in KZN employing more than 150 people, no more than 2,5% of your top three levels of your management structure can be Indian.

(So there are only 30 people in your top three levels of management? Sorry for you if you are Indian; you don't qualify for appointment to management.)

I've been reading this gazette over and over again with a complete sense of disgust at our ruling party whom I have voted into power in good faith. I look particularly at people high up in the echelons of government such as Mac Maharaj and Pravin Gordhan and ask: “Gentlemen, how in good faith can you allow yourselves to be aligned with this Verwoerdian nightmare?”

I do not include Trevor Manuel in this category because he has stepped down. In 2011, Manuel called the godfather of these regulations, Jimmy Manyi, a “worst order racist” saying those views did not reflect government policy. Manuel was apparently wrong. Manyi’s view has prevailed and Manuel is out.

So I find myself on the brink of an election that will largely determine the type of country my children will inherit.

What do I say to my daughters? “You do not qualify for a top management position because your demographic is wrong”?

Can I in good conscience go to the polls and put my cross next to a party that condemns my children, one of them a “born free”, to an apartheid future?

I call on ANC president Jacob Zuma to put an end to this outrage now, conclusively.

Show some leadership, Msholozi. Don’t ever make any of us ashamed to tell our children that we supported the African National Congress.

  • 1. This paragraph originally read:
    In plain language, whether the boers considered you to be a koelie or a hotnot or a kaffir, the act considered you equally discriminated against and an equal candidate for affirmative action.
    I asked the editor to change it if he felt it too controversial. He clearly did.