News / Africa

10 Years In, South African Affirmative Action Faces Criticism

FILE - Shoppers walk into a Woolworths store at a shopping center in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg, August 2013.
FILE - Shoppers walk into a Woolworths store at a shopping center in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg, August 2013.
South Africa is observing the 10th anniversary of the law that brought affirmative action to the workplace for black South Africans. The Black Economic Empowerment law - commonly known as BEE - was meant to redress decades of inequality by implementing quotas for black workers in South African companies. Ten years later, however, the policy has its share of critics.

"Hi, how are you? Let's quickly run through the plan. We're gonna start with ownership."

Every year, Thabo Mokoena goes through the same audit. He meets with an agent of a certification agency who is going to assess how many points the company he works for has scored regarding the Black Economic Empowerment policy, commonly known as BEE.

Points are based on the percentage of blacks and other non-white ethnic groups in the company's ownership and the skills training it gives to people in these groups.

Mokoena said the policy is not hard to implement if you believe in it.

"It's not complicated if you subscribe to it philosophically. Obviously it does have challenges, in the sense that you do have to place people in the job categories are required, you have to set aside the sufficient financial resources to do the training, and so on and so forth," he said. "Any company that is faced with a situation, if philosophically, they're in agreement with the objectives of the legislation, it's not difficult, but there will be challenges in implementation and there'll be cost involved."

The first BEE act took effect 10 years ago, with the goal of addressing inequalities created during decades of white-minority rule. Back then, non-whites were excluded from many jobs.

For companies, having a good BEE scorecard is often essential for business. The higher the BEE score they have, the more access they get to public markets and contracts.

Pansy Morapedi, managing director of the certification agency Honeycomb, said that although there are clients that embrace the philosophy of the BEE, most of them do it for the business opportunities it creates.

"It is still a grade purchase, for a lot of companies. For them to be able to do business, they require a BEE certificate. I mean it's like buying insurance. You sort of don't want to buy insurance, but you need it. But we do also find that in our client base we do find clients that are actually embracing the law for what it is: to transform the country."

But the policy has faced various criticisms over the years. During a summit last month, South African President Jacob Zuma pointed out that fraud remains a problem. The practice of "fronting," in which companies appoint black people as token shareholders to get a higher BEE score, is common.

Some say BEE also has deterred black entrepreneurship and has given black South Africans a sense of entitlement.

Boitumelo Sethlatswe, a researcher at the South African Institute Of Race Relations, said, paradoxically, BEE sometimes does not help black people.

"It pushes stereotypes about black people. Because there is such a high demand to get people of color into positions that, given our past, you might not have the numbers of educated people to fill positions that were currently available," said Sethlatswe. "I think in some cases, people might not recognize that that person who's sitting in the boardroom is competent."

Sethlatswe said the BEE should be combined with other strong policies in order to work.

"If we're trying to transform the country, rather than focusing on making sure that there are quotas in place, we should rather focus on economic growth, on education, on entrepreneurship. We need to make sure that we put other things with these policies in order to support them," said Sethlatswe.

Last month, new reforms were announced regarding the BEE. Tougher sanctions toward the practice of fronting and an emphasis on black ownership are among other measures designed to improve the policy.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs