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

Sambisa Forest Stands Between Nigeria, Victory Over Boko Haram

Military takes back nearly all towns, villages in northeast, except for massive expanse of forest that spreads thousands of square kilometers over several states More

Islamic State Recruiting Stokes Fears for Parents in Georgia

Chechens are a notable part of Islamic State's gains in Syria and Iraq, and analysts fear what might happen if those fighters return to the Caucasus More

Yarmouk Camp Becomes Distant Memory for Palestinian Diaspora

Once thriving capital of Palestinian diaspora, after siege by Syrian government forces and Islamic State group, camp becomes 'deepest circle of hell' 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.
Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'i
X
Sharon Behn
April 21, 2015 9:18 PM
A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten. Sharon Behn reports on the politics of the word genocide on the 100th anniversary of the events.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video German Program Helps Migrants Overcome Traumatic Experience at Sea

Migrants fleeing poverty and violence in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia risk life and limb to reach safety in Europe. Those who have made it to European shores are traumatized by the experience. A program in Germany helps survivors overcome the trauma by giving a new perspective to their catastrophic experience. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs