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.
TEXT SIZE - +
— 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

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid