But it remains a heresy to challenge the racial basis of empowerment edicts that are failing to address poverty and inequality.

Employment equity is to social engineering what falling down the rabbit hole is to Alice in Wonderland – journeying into a bizarre and disorienting environment that is difficult to remove oneself from.

A recent absurdity is a company so desperate to comply with the quotas as per the country’s demographics that it refused to hire black women because it had to keep a position unfilled until an Indian woman could fill it!

Opposing employment equity is one of the current heresies. ‘Heresy’ describes the holding of beliefs that contradict those of the dominant orthodoxy. Punishment for heresy ranged from excommunication to execution. Until the 17th century, burning at the stake was a common method of executing heretics. It was commonly used to execute women found guilty of witchcraft.

South Africans, including the IRR, whose opinions are heretical to the employment equity orthodoxy, face ‘witch-hunts’ and ‘execution’ by mainstream and social media.

The current orthodoxy is reflected in the comments of Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi on the release of The Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) report for 2018. The report reveals that top, senior and professional ranks in the private sector are dominated by white men, and that there’s been little movement over the past three years. An analysis of the CEE and responses to it have been made by Dr Anthea Jeffery.

According to Nxesi, it is clear that self-regulation isn’t working. And so there must be consequences. Nxesi intends using Section 53 of the Employment Equity Act (EEA) to withhold the compliance certificate. Without a certificate, a company wouldn’t be able to do business with government. Already under way are discussions by the CEE to set sector targets, with clear consequences if they are missed.

We are now going to be hard,’ Nxesi said. ‘We are very clear, those who do not comply must face the music.’ And, he said, ‘Those who do not comply must be punished.’ Nxesi has become the Torquemada of our politically correct age.

Andile Nomlala, president of the Black Management Forum (BMF), was predictably angry in an interview with Stephen Grootes (SAfm Sunrise, 28 August).

Grootes asked him about the ‘untransformation’ in the private sector. Everything in the CEE report ‘sickened’ Nomlala. The CEE’s figures were ‘completely unacceptable’.

Nomlala revealed that the BMF was establishing a ‘litigation fund’ to help the State prosecute offending companies ‘to ensure that we realise a transformed society’.

Creepy stuff.

The obvious response to Nomlala is that it’s no business of his or the BMF’s as to whether private companies do or do not ‘transform’. Surely the BMF is there to make up for the perceived lack of ‘transformation’ by ‘white’ business?

Nomlala accused the white business community of being ‘completely reluctant’ and ‘not wanting to transform’. He provided no proof of this. Nomlala relied on the CEE’s figures without interrogating them, and produced no facts as to why this ‘transformation’ hasn’t taken place. It was the orthodox position and that was enough.

Nomlala repeated the tropes about South Africa being the most unequal society in the world, the most racially divided and amongst the most poverty stricken.

Inequality is fraught because everything depends on how it’s measured. One can’t change inequality; one can only change the causes of inequality. Anyway, the reason for the current levels of inequality have more to do with the growth of the black middle class – the BMF’s constituency – than anything else.

With regard to being the most racially divided, our research has repeatedly found that this is just not true.

And, of 191 countries, South Africa is listed at 101; it is not remotely near being ‘one of the poorest’ countries in the world.

The majority of ‘the people’, said Nomlala, are the most exploited people in the country. Again, absolutely no evidence is tendered. Arguably, the most exploited people are those who aren’t threatened with exploitation at all – the unemployed.

Nomlala promised that ‘section 53’ certificates of non-compliance would be issued and would preclude doing business with the State. So the BMF would be the State’s willing accomplice in this noble task. Who is the BMF to assist government in this witch-hunt? Surely the role of the BMF should be to assist ‘white’ business to find good black managers or create business opportunities for black managers in ’black’ businesses?

Dr Jeffery writes that the EEA is unconstitutional and damaging, and should be repealed (See above link).

In summary: the Constitution expressly identifies non-racialism as a core value. It guarantees ‘the supremacy of the Constitution’ and any legislation which is ‘inconsistent’ is invalid.

The Equality clause prohibits unfair discrimination on racial grounds, but allows the taking of ‘legislative…measures designed to…advance [those] disadvantaged by unfair discrimination’ and so ‘promote the achievement of equality’.

While the Equality clause calls for a public administration ‘broadly representative of the South African people’, it makes it clear that this goal cannot trump other needs.

Employment practices in the State must be ‘based on ability, objectivity, and fairness’. They must also ensure the ‘efficient, economic, and effective use of resources’. The Constitution doesn’t mention racial targets or racial classification as a requirement in determining targets

It doesn’t endorse demographic representivity – the notion that every racial group should be represented in all areas of economic endeavour in strict accordance with its share of the economically active population (EAP).

The EAP includes all people between 15 and 64 who either work or would like to, including some 10 million unemployed people.

Roughly half of Africans are under the age of 25 and lack the experience required for management jobs.

Only 5% of Africans aged 20 or more have university degrees, which may be needed or advisable for senior posts.

The ‘demographic’ representivity of the EEA has become holy writ notwithstanding the ‘broad’ representivity stated by the Constitution.

Finally the constitutional call for ‘broad representivity’ is confined to the ‘public administration’ and can’t justify the imposition of racial targets (quotas) on private companies.

The BMF’s real gripe is one it has had for years, namely, the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act (PPPFA). The PPPFA requires companies which tender for government work to achieve a score of 10% on the employment equity criteria, and 90% on function and price. The BMF’s complaint is that because black companies don’t have the buying power of white companies, they want the equity criteria percentage increased.

The BMF, founded in 1997 with Cyril Ramaphosa as its head, describes itself as a ‘non-racial thought-leadership organisation’. Alice in Wonderland meets the Inquisition.

The EEA has failed to ‘advance’ the disadvantaged black majority. Rigid demographic representivity and cadre deployment have undermined almost every public sphere. According to the World Economic Forum, public service inefficiency is one of the most significant obstacles to doing business in South Africa.

A non-racial and effective way to help the poor exists in the IRR’s proposed strategy of Economic Empowerment for the Disadvantaged.

England stopped burning heretics in 1612 and the last execution for heresy occurred in 1697. Let’s hope that our heresy against the prevailing dogma of ‘transformation’ will continue to be limited to verbal execution only.

Sara Gon is the head of strategic engagement at the IRR.

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