Cru­sader takes on labour act

Sunday World - - Business - MOSA MOKHEMA

BUSI­NESS pi­o­neer Her­man Mashaba is fight­ing against what he be­lieves are un­just labour laws.

This week the Freemar­ket Foun­da­tion chair­man an­nounced that he was pro­ceed­ing with his quest to chal­lenge the con­sti­tu­tional va­lid­ity of sec­tion 32 of the Labour Re­la­tions Act (LRA).

Sec­tion 32 says that once a bar­gain­ing coun­cil, con­sist­ing of big busi­ness and labour unions, agree on work­place rules and reg­u­la­tions, they af­fect third par­ties, re­gard­less of whether it’s a strug­gling en­ter­prise or big busi­ness.

I can’t sit back now that I’m a priv­i­leged busi­ness­man. I have to do some­thing for small busi­ness,” the ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Lephatsi In­vest­ments said.

Mashaba said the foun­da­tion had been try­ing to per­suade law­mak­ers to change this dra­co­nian” labour leg­is­la­tion so that it could em­power emerg­ing busi­nesses rather than dis­ad­van­tage them.

Mashaba has com­mit­ted his own money to fi­nance the le­gal chal­lenge.

My cause is to free busi­ness from po­lit­i­cal dom­i­na­tion. I’m also do­ing this for my kids so that I am not ac­cused of not help­ing to res­cue the fu­ture of this coun­try,” he said.

Im­pos­ing un­re­al­is­tic reg­u­la­tions on small role­play­ers that are strug- gling to sur­vive will do noth­ing to get rid of the mass un­em­ploy­ment in this coun­try.”

He said that when­ever they tried to en­gage with par­lia­ment to ad­dress sec­tion 32, Cosatu re­sponded in­stead of par­lia­ment. Our le­gal peo­ple re­alised these were de­lay­ing tac­tics, so that this piece of leg­is­la­tion can be passed.

It’s ob­vi­ous that these laws favour Cosatu and big busi­ness and the few peo­ple who are em­ployed.

What about the mil­lions of un­em­ployed?”

Speak­ing out in such a brazen man­ner can­not be easy in a coun­try marred by grow­ing po­lit­i­cal ten­sion but Mashaba said he was not scared of step­ping on any­one’s toes”. He said he was dis­ap­pointed as he ex­pected sup­port from Cosatu.

An ex­am­ple of black busi­ness suc­cess against all odds” dur­ing the apartheid era, Mashaba be­lieves he would not have been suc­cess­ful if the cur­rent labour laws had been in place in the 1980s.

I was only 19 when I aban­doned my stud­ies to start my own cos­met­ics busi­ness be­cause I was against op­pres­sion,” he re­called.

I paid my em­ploy­ees only what I could af­ford. Nowa­days, small busi­nesses have to pay the same wages as giants and multi­na­tion­als like Unilever and Col­gate SA.”

Un­der sec­tion 32, the labour min­is­ter must effect the reg­u­la­tions set in bar­gain­ing coun­cils on other par­ties not in­volved in the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

To rem­edy this de­struc­tive law, I’m not ask­ing for a lot, just for the word­ing to change from must to may so that the min­is­ter uses her dis­cre­tion to eval­u­ate the im­pact the law has on some busi­nesses.”

Should the law be re­vised, Mashaba said the econ­omy would sort it­self out and there would be lit­tle worry about busi­ness own­ers ex­ploit­ing their work­ers.

The over­all work en­vi­ron­ment will be com­pet­i­tive be­cause most of the cur­rent prob­lems are a re­sult of a short­age of job op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Where there is full em­ploy­ment, that way peo­ple will have the free­dom to choose where they ren­der their ser­vices if they are un­happy in one place.”

Mashaba said he was con­fi­dent that he would come out vic­to­ri­ous.

I can­not fathom why I wouldn’t win be­cause my fight is con­sti­tu­tional.

I’m striv­ing to em­power the poor. We also need black busi­nesses we can be proud of, where we create an en­vi­ron­ment that is con­ducive to cre­at­ing more black in­dus­tri­al­ists, big play­ers.”

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