THE IN­EQUAL­ITY OF em­ploy­ment eq­uity

The BMF notes with dis­ap­point­ment – again – the re­lease of the 15th em­ploy­ment eq­uity re­port, which is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing an an­nual rit­ual of dis­ap­point­ment and missed op­por­tu­ni­ties. Bo­nang Mo­hale un­packs the BMF po­si­tion

CityPress - - Business - Mo­hale is pres­i­dent of the BMF

More than 21 years af­ter the start of the demo­cratic dis­pen­sa­tion, the coun­try is still far from the promised land of op­por­tu­ni­ties and jus­tice for all. An as­sess­ment of the 2014/15 Com­mis­sion for Em­ploy­ment Eq­uity an­nual re­port re­veals a dis­ap­point­ing and con­tra­dic­tory pic­ture. In the top ech­e­lons of man­age­ment, whites, and white males in par­tic­u­lar, con­tinue to dom­i­nate. The num­bers can­not be worse than this.

While the African pop­u­la­tion con­sti­tutes 76.2%, only 13.6% of Africans oc­cupy top man­age­ment po­si­tions. In con­trast, whites who com­prise only 10.3% oc­cupy 70% of top man­age­ment po­si­tions.

In se­nior man­age­ment, African rep­re­sen­ta­tion in­creased from 18.4% to 20.5% be­tween 2010 and 2014. The per­cent­age of whites slightly de­creased from 62.4% to 59% in the same pe­riod.

Fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion at se­nior man­age­ment in­creased from 19% in 2010 to 32.1% in 2014.

The des­ig­nated groups of In­di­ans and white women seem to be pro­gress­ing well.

The Black Man­age­ment Fo­rum (BMF) is, how­ever, ex­tremely con­cerned about what seems to be con­certed ef­forts to de­lib­er­ately sabotage the trans­for­ma­tion agenda. In terms of na­tional de­mo­graph­ics, whites and coloureds con­sti­tute 10.3% and 10.6%, re­spec­tively, yet coloureds are un­der­rep­re­sented, even in the Western Cape, where they are a ma­jor­ity. This is un­ac­cept­able.

In the top man­age­ment ech­e­lon, whites still dom­i­nate – 43% of all top man­age­ment re­cruit­ment came from the white pop­u­la­tion, fol­lowed by Africans at 17.7%, and 39.5% of whites were pro­moted com­pared with 13.7% of Africans. Fur­ther­more, 53.4% of whites were ben­e­fi­cia­ries of skills de­vel­op­ment com­pared with 8.4% for Africans.

Yet black pro­fes­sion­als in gen­eral con­sti­tute 55.3% of pro­fes­sion­ally qual­i­fied in­di­vid­u­als. This is the pool that is sup­posed to be de­vel­oped for se­nior and top man­age­ment. The ques­tion is: Where is the bot­tle­neck?

The BMF is im­pressed by the ma­jor in­roads be­ing made by women – 42.9% of qual­i­fied pro­fes­sion­als are women. This is not sur­pris­ing. The num­ber of women at ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions is at the same level as that of males, and sur­passes them in some in­stances.

The depart­ment of labour is pre­par­ing to take more than 1 000 em­ploy­ers to court for non­com­pli­ance. The BMF urges the gov­ern­ment to pro­ceed with the court cases. The gov­ern­ment should be able to present wa­ter­tight cases. The gov­ern­ment should fur­ther ar­gue for stiffer fines.

The BMF be­lieves the gov­ern­ment should use ex­ist­ing in­sti­tu­tions to mon­i­tor the im­ple­men­ta­tion and mon­i­tor­ing of the Em­ploy­ment Eq­uity Act.

The BMF is fur­ther dis­ap­pointed by the fact that the gov­ern­ment only stated that more than 1 000 com­pa­nies had not com­piled, with­out nam­ing them. Com­pa­nies go to great lengths to present their im­ages in a pos­i­tive light, so nam­ing and sham­ing com­pa­nies that do not com­ply could force them to com­ply.

Nam­ing and sham­ing com­pa­nies will ex­pose their in­tran­si­gence to their em­ploy­ees, sup­pli­ers, share­hold­ers and cus­tomers. South African con­sumers are en­ti­tled to know which com­pa­nies are still frozen in back­ward apartheid prac­tices.

We are, how­ever, en­cour­aged by the proac­tive steps that the gov­ern­ment has taken to cor­rect and fast-track trans­for­ma­tion through the re­view and amend­ment of the Em­ploy­ment Eq­uity Act, Black Eco­nomic Em­pow­er­ment Act and the work that is un­der way with the pref­er­en­tial pro­cure­ment pol­icy frame­work.

We need to find ways of chang­ing the hearts and minds of South Africans in their conception of em­ploy­ment eq­uity and trans­for­ma­tion. Trans­for­ma­tion is at the cen­tre of a fair, eq­ui­table and just so­ci­ety. This pro­ject is too im­por­tant to be left in the hands of the pri­vate sec­tor and gov­ern­ment. As such, the BMF calls on the marginalised black pop­u­la­tion to ac­knowl­edge and re­alise the lim­i­nal­ity of white gen­eros­ity and sol­i­dar­ity. It is about time that young South Africans of all races, par­tic­u­larly Africans, take an ac­tive in­ter­est in the trans­for­ma­tion pro­ject.

The BMF urges black pro­fes­sion­als to look be­yond ad­vance­ment in white cor­po­rate South Africa. Op­por­tu­ni­ties af­forded by em­pow­er­ment leg­is­la­tion should be seen as an en­abler to to­tal par­tic­i­pa­tion in the South African econ­omy. South Africa des­per­ately needs an in­no­va­tive, as­sertive and fiercely com­pet­i­tive black en­tre­pre­neur­ial class. The em­ploy­ment eq­uity re­ports, year af­ter year, clearly show the lim­its and flaws of the sta­tus quo. This is why the BMF whole­heart­edly sup­ports the black in­dus­tri­al­ists pro­ject. We urge the gov­ern­ment to in­vest the nec­es­sary re­sources that will un­lock the po­ten­tial of black en­trepreneurs.

The im­ple­men­ta­tion of the black in­dus­tri­al­ists pro­ject should be dif­fer­ent. We can­not af­ford for this pro­ject to be cap­tured by ten­der­preneurs and rent seek­ers. We want to see ma­te­rial sup­port to in­di­vid­u­als who are pre­pared to work hard, cre­ate value and con­trib­ute to the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try by ad­dress­ing in­equal­ity, job cre­ation and poverty re­duc­tion.

A crit­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion of re­ports in the past 14 years demon­strates that South Africa will not ad­dress the in­equal­ity ques­tion soon. The racial di­men­sion to South African in­equal­ity is par­tic­u­larly wor­ry­ing to the BMF – it is a recipe for dis­as­ter.

The BMF is, how­ever, op­ti­mistic that if broad­based black eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment, em­ploy­ment eq­uity and var­i­ous char­ters are com­pre­hen­sively and rig­or­ously im­ple­mented and mon­i­tored, South Africa can be truly trans­formed.

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