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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid