Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Thoughts on Affirmative Action
The DA has recently been on the rampage against affirmative action, commenting yesterday on Cape Talk that the fact that the average age of artisans in South Africa is 54 and that there are so many poor South Africans "was purely the fault of the ANC government". This is absurd.

The antecedents of the distinct skills shortage and huge poverty levels have everything to do with apartheid and little (although some faults can certainly be found) to do with the ANC government's rule. The apartheid government's brutal education policies for the black majority are so oft underestimated in their crushing power, and many South Africans will do better to heed their consequences. It is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to bring the overwhelming uneducated majority of our population out of poverty in little over a decade. Whilst there have undoubtedly been areas where the ANC can improve, laying the entire blame at the door of the ANC is misguided at best.

The main gripe of the DA stems from Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana's recent comments that there is no 'sunset clause' on AA, and that it may be intensified to redress imbalances in our population due to the past regime. They have supported the FF+ in their attempts to get ILO action against Mdladlana for contravening international labour prejudice guidelines. The FF+ have themselves come out blasting against AA, comparing it to apartheid.

The point is surely, is that if AA within broader BEE codes does its job, creating black entrepreneurs, forcing prejudice out of employment, and lifting skills development across the spectrum, then affirmative action as a law will be redundant, as almost every company will comply out of normal business processes, such will be the levels of skills and economic development throughout the population. But until that time, we unfortunately need these laws to make amends for the past.

Affirmative Action was a concept that started poorly, with little guidance and little control. The new broad-based BEE codes do much to negate this through internal and external skills development, affirmative procurement and management control. Let's give it a chance to succeed. The sooner it does, the sooner our economic profile normalises, and the sooner it will be redundant.