Public hearings on employment equity
14 May 2003
Balancing affirmative action
Presented by Solidarity
Thank you for the opportunity to address you on this challenge for South Africa. We need in South Africa a win win solution for the challenge of affirmative action within the framework of the constitution. The post 1994 politics learn that solutions are found around a table through negotiations and agreements. We are now in politics of talking to each other. The democracy did not stop in 1994, it only began in 1994. We are still in a phase of building democracy. My presentation today is within the framework of building democracy in South Africa and I will present you with new ideas on enhancing democracy for all in South Africa. My proposals are aimed at making South Africa a country for all who live in it, black and white.
Concerning affirmative action, the challenge for South Africa is to apply affirmative action in such a way that imbalances are rectified but without creating new forms of imbalances.
The racism of the past and the negative consequences thereof must be removed, but this will make no sense if new forms of racism are created thereby. Racism is not removed from a society if it is simply shifted from one group to another.
Solidarity is the largest independent trade union in South Africa. The founder trade union was the Mineworkers’ Union, which was founded in 1913 in the mining industry. Today the union is substantially represented in the chemical, electrical, telecommunications, motor, steel and engineering and mining industries. Since 1994 the union grew from 34 000 to 128 000 members and there’s no reason to believe that this growth curve has stopped.
Solidarity and affirmative action
As far as the Employment Equity Act is concerned, we followed a positive approach. A comprehensive policy framework and implementation plan in this regard were compiled with the help of a team of experts and published in book form. Solidarity obtained widespread support for this balanced approach from academics, legal practitioners, as well as trade union and business leaders.
Solidarity gave its full co-operation during the process of drafting the Bill. Submissions were made, for example, to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Labour during the legislative process. Solidarity took part in company forums and after the act came into effect more talks with the portfolio committee and the ministry of labour.
Affirmative action and alienation
I have done an intensive study on the influence of estrangement/alienation on the non-designated group. The results were published in the form of a Masters Degree. Currently I’m busy with a doctoral with the view to develop a win win model for South Africa.
The following data is from my study on alienation.
According to the writer Seeman alienation or estrangement finds expression in five variants. The variants find expression in a feeling of powerlessness, meaninglessness, normlessness, isolation and self-alienation. This presentation will attempt to show a connection between affirmative action, alienation and the variants emanating from it.
Members of the non-designated group who experience feelings of powerlessness see no reason to strive after goals because they see their future as if it is being determined by powers beyond their control.
The fact that affirmative action is statutory binding and the individual experience it as something he/she cannot influence at all, may enhance the feeling of powerlessness. The fact that affirmative action is also of a representative nature indicates a demographic reality and there can thus be no end of it in sight for the next thirty years. This causes a feeling among the non-designated group that they are controlled by a power outside their control and the only way to regain control is to move out under this power and manifests itself in emigration.
Although the ideas of Carel Marx regarding alienation cannot be summarily applied to the present social systems, his concept of the loss of influence and control in particular may be brought into line with Seeman’s variant of powerlessness and is thus important to this report. This loss of control becomes particularly relevant when affirmative action is being implemented insensitively and leads to the non-designated group becoming demoralised (because they may possibly feel that their contributions are not acknowledged or appreciated). Olen & Berry (1992:306) amplified this and found that the non-designated group feels that they can no longer achieve promotion for themselves through hard work and that their future in the company is determined by a system outside themselves.
Marx is of the opinion that where a person is a member of a social system but is excluded from it, it will lead to powerlessness.
Regarding powerlessness, reference is being made to instances such as that of Telkom, who sent out an e-mail to the effect that no further promotions of the non-designated group could occur at middle management level. Denel who distributed a letter in which promotion of the non-designated group was prohibited. In Goldfield’s plans, provision has been made to the effect that no white males may be appointed during the next five years. Numerous advertisements are encountered for posts, which have been earmarked for affirmative action purposes. A feeling of powerlessness prevails. Which could lead to various forms of resistance.
Johan Joubert testified at a public hearing of Solidarity that he has long ago accepted that he will never receive promotion in Eskom due to aa. He has decided to emigrate to New Zealand.
The one-sided affirmative action programs of companies are leading to alienation of whites, while no active endeavour is being made to retain the commitment of whites. A Classical example hereof occurred at Eskom, where a senior manager said the following to a group of trade union representatives: "The sooner whites realise that there is no future for them at Eskom, the better for them and Eskom."
A blind employee at a switchboard in a state department says he gets the impression that disabled people is being used to give legitimacy to the Employment Equity Act. He said he works for almost half the salary a normal person would get for the same job, but he does not dare to complain, because if he loses his job, he will not get another one. People apparently think it to be funny to do things such as hitting him over the fingers while he is trying to answer the phone. I have to swallow this nonsense because I know that a white disabled person is standing behind a white disabled male in the line when it gets to appoint someone.
Experiencing a feeling of meaninglessness goes together with the person’s inability to understand the socio-cultural environment in which he finds himself and is coupled with a lack of optimism about the future (Israel, 1971; 210) (Mannheim, 1940:59). The non-designated group experience themselves out-defined by the socio-cultural circumstances that they must enter. Neither do they foresee a change in the status quo. According to Seeman (1959:786) the person feels meaningless because he does not know where the circumstances in which he finds himself, will lead him. This variant is typified by a low expectation for making satisfactory predictions regarding future behaviour.
According to Marx (Lefever & Lefever, 2001:42) political alienation and a feeling of insignificance will result if an individual is not granted the opportunity for self-development by a particular system and if he is not enabled to realise his full potential. Alienation will result if a person’s natural capabilities and needs are not acknowledged and if he cannot find fulfilment in his work. Limitation on upward mobility, training and any other form of limitation of the non-designated group will result in the above-mentioned form of insignificance.
The feeling of meaninglessness can manifest itself in the fact that a legitimate fear exists among whites that affirmative action will become a permanent phenomenon. This is encouraging many people to emigrate, since they are concerned that they will become part of a permanently disadvantaged minority, as second-class citizens in their own country. No enterprise with which we have been involved has set any terminal point for affirmative action. In an affirmative action hearing Pieter John Spiro (23) said he is rather a first class citizen in somebody else’s country than a second-class citizen in his own country.
At the public hearings an employee in a state department testified that it has become intolerable for whites. Their nerves are shattered and they are constantly on leave due to bad health cause by depression and tension.
Normlessness finds expression in the absence of a common norm complex that prescribes people’s actions in situations. The absence of a common norm complex results in a situation where people’s behaviour are difficult to foresee and so the individual can come to believe that fate determines the outcome. Seeman (1959:787) points out that if there does not exist a balance between aims and the norms to achieve aims, it could inevitably lead to normlessness. If an individual discovers that a social structure is responsible for frustrating his ideals, he will become alienated from this social structure and accordingly begin to behave like a rebel.
Marx (Lefever & Lefever, 2001:42) warns that a system that is foreign to a person’s nature will also result in alienation. If the non-designated group is not part of the process of affirmative action and they experience the process as outside themselves as individuals, the process could give rise to alienation.
Normlessness can explain the proposition by Muller & Roodt (1998:7) that should individuals experience affirmative action as a threat, there is a great possibility that the program will be continuously sabotaged. The sabotaging of affirmative action programs may according to Muller & Roodt (1998; 7) possibly manifest itself as a result of alienation.
Isolation results where the individual becomes estranged from the community and the culture wherein he functions and wherein the community exists. Estrangement results because the values of the community and those of the individual differs (Seeman, 1959:789). The difference between the values of the community and those of the individual lies therein that the individual attaches little value to the aims to which the community attaches high value. The non-designated group wants to be judged on the basis of merit, but they are judged on the basis of representativeness. Marx (Lefer & Lefever, 2001:42) calls this disturbed relationship political alienation. Political alienation can manifest itself in the disturbed relationship between the non-designated group and the political system should the non-designated group not feel part of the system.
According to Kruger (1998:135) the scepticism of non-designated about affirmative action may result in their becoming isolated. Scepticism may be ascribed to the fact that convictions that are held in high regard by the individual, lose their reward value for the individual. The individual for instance no longer feel that hard work bring any success at all. Although the individual is a member of the society, he no longer feels part of the community. Marx calls this phenomenon social alienation and ascribes it to the fact that there exist divisions among a group. The group in control usually determines these divisions. The individual feels separated from a part of his reality (Lefever & Lefever, 2001:42). The non-designated group can feel separated because they are excluded from the affirmative action of the designated group. Should the non-designated group feel excluded from the process of affirmative action (thus from a system instituted by the society of whom he is a member) a feeling of isolation will result.
If a person experiences feelings of powerlessness, insignificance, normlessness, and isolation, self-alienation is the inevitable end result. From the above it may be deduced that the affirmative action can lead to self-alienation of the non-designated group. Alienation of the non-designated group may lead to a condition described by Seeman (1969:190) as one wherein the individual has no clarity regarding his own personality or his place in society.
Fromm (1990:120) declares that self-alienation has as a result that the person no longer experiences himself as being the centre of his own world. The person is out of reach of himself, just as he is out of reach of other people.
In conclusion: The non-designated group feels they are in a system but are not part of the system. They feel they are controlled by a system (affirmative action) outside themselves. The cannot enter into this system on the basis of their own achievements. They feel like second-class citizens. Neither is the end of this system in view en this makes them uncertain regarding what the future holds for them. Neither do they understand the norms underlying this system. The feel excluded form the community and therefore isolated. This can cause the non-designated group to become estranged even from the labour market itself and even become estranged from themselves and begin to wonder about their identity.
As a result of alienation the non-designated group no longer has a feeling of political or social commitment to South Africa.
What’s the solution
The burning question is still how can imbalances in the workplace be rectified without creating new forms of imbalances.
In the first place we propose as part of the solution an equality accord between government and the non-designated group.
We found the idea of the accord in the Malaysian model of AA action. Although we realise that Malaysia is not the perfect example of an affirmative action model the idea of an accord is crucial for South Africa.
To address the problem of new imbalances in Malaysia the majority and minority entered into an accord.
The focus of the accord was on economic growth. The basic point of departure was that for aa to succeed the economic cake must grow.
The aim of the accord was to find a balance between the legitimate rights of the non-Malaysian people and the demands that Malaysians should receive preferential treatment
The non-Malaysians received the guarantee that they would not be worse of because of affirmative action. There were also methods in place to prevent unfair discrimination.
South Africa needs an equality accord. An Accord between the majority and the minority. An accord that will find a balance between the legitimate rights of the non-designated group and the expectations of the designated group.
An accord that ensure that imbalances of the past can be rectified without creating new forms of imbalances.
Solidarity entered into informal talks with government on the idea of an accord about a year ago. We also had talks with the SACP, COSATU trade unions, opposition parties and big business.
Our congress accepted a resolution that mandates the leadership to enter into talks with government about an accord that reads as follows:
The Equality Accord aims to enhance democracy in South Africa. The Accord will focus on affirmative action and on a balance between the creation of equality (by removing imbalances) for the designated group (women, blacks and disabled people) and the full participation of the non -designated group (white workers) in economic activity. Participation in the democracy will be ensured for the total community if balance is created.
The South African Constitution of 1996 is the foundation for the Equality Accord. The Equality Accord gives content to the values as contained in the Constitution and especially the spirit contained in the basic principles (chapter 1) and the Declaration of Human Rights (chapter 2) of the Constitution. These values include liberty / (freedom), equality and human dignity. The Equality Accord will be bound to the following aims as expressed in the Preamble to the Constitution:
Although the government has a responsibility to minority groups (non-designated group) as well, the group should also take responsibility to ensure their full participation in economic activity.
The Equality Accord will mainly focus on two aspects:
This accord can be a post 1994 solution for a burning issue. If all parties are committed to real equality an historic accord between the majority and minority can be reached. South Africa can’t afford not to have an accord.
Code of good practice
In the second place we propose a code of good practice that gives clear guidelines to companies on how to implement affirmative action without creating new forms of discrimination. Recently Solidarity won aa court cases against the SAPS and ESKOM. These court cases cristilised principles on the implementation of aa. We are also in the process of one of the biggest restructuring court cases against the public service. We act within the boundaries of the constitution of South Africa. By litigating against employers that unfairly discriminate on grounds of race we act as protectors of the status of the constitutional state and the rule of law. One thus can develop a code of good practice through litigation. However litigation is to expensive, to exclusive, to lengthy and never enhance relationships.
What we need in South Africa is political action. Nationally or on a macro level a political action can be in the form of an accord or it can simply be in the form of a code of good practice. Although a code of good practice must be developed by means of comprehensive consultation we propose the following to be part of a code of good practice.
These plans can include the following:
Employment Equity Act.
We believe that a win-win solution for aa is possible. We can develop a model that rectifies imbalances without creating new forms of imbalances, but we need the political will. Solidarity wants to be involved in a process to transform South Africa to a country for all who live in it – black and white.