Having recently gone into the recruitment business with a friend of mine from England, I have been shocked to see the impact of affirmative action first hand and the blatant discrimination that it fosters under the guise of redressing the imbalances of the past.
I am the first person to admit that South Africa desperately needs to do something to reverse the negative impact of Apartheid era policies, but my experiences in the recruitment industry have convinced me that affirmative action and employment equity policies are definitely not the way forward for this country.
It has been quite an eye opener to speak to Human Resource Managers from top level South African companies who blatantly tell recruiters that they are looking for help in filling vacancies in their organisations with one of their primary requirements being that the person must be an “employment equity” individual and they are not willing to consider white candidates. As a result of this requirement I have been amazed to see many high level white candidates who are for all intents and purposes unemployable.
It has reminded me of all the dinner table and fire place conversations from my days as a Cape Town resident where my white friends used to complain about affirmative action and compare it to Apartheid. They used to complain about how difficult it is to find employment as a white person in the “new South Africa” and I always thought this was exaggerated talk from a bunch of people who had a privileged upbringing and knew nothing about hardship, but my exposure to the recruitment industry has shown me how openly racist and counter-productive affirmative action really is.
In a country where we are constantly complaining about a skills shortage and the need for greater international competitiveness it is mind-boggling that we are willing to let a large proportion of our productive labour force go unemployed for the sake of redressing the imbalances of the past. I battle to see the logic in sacrificing our common future in order to try to address past injustices. Surely there must be a better way forward for South Africa than affirmative action? In his famous Rivonia trial speech Nelson Mandela made it clear that they where fighting against both “white supremacy and black supremacy” and the goal was to build a united, democratic, non-racial South Africa. Affirmative action for all its noble intentions goes against all the values, principles and ideals of our anti-Apartheid struggle and deserves to be rejected and allowed to go the way of the dodo if we are ever going to create the kind of South Africa that Nelson Mandela and his revolutionary generation of visionary leaders sacrificed so much for.
We need a new dialogue as a nation on how to redress the imbalances of the past whilst building a common future which offers hope for all South Africans without any form of discrimination or marginalisation against any group of people. Affirmative action just seems to be the lazy solution to address an undeniable problem. There surely must be a better way to tackle the injustices of the past and their present day effects without prejudicing one group and sacrificing our common future as South Africans.
The time has come for a new generation of South Africans to tackle our problems with a new sense of unity and togetherness, whilst not shying away from confronting the tough truths and one of those truths is that we have to do something drastic to redress the imbalances of the past but in doing so not perpetuate a new round of discrimination. It is for this reason that I propose that we reject affirmative action and employment equity policies in search of better solutions.