White South African males still dominate large sectors of the economy and hold sway in the private sector. They remain beneficiaries of economic Apartheid, writes LWANDILE MTSOLO
White people continue to benefit more from democracy above all other race groups in South Africa. Their children stand on their shoulders and continue to benefit. Structures set up to benefit them may not be recognised in the new dispensation but they still function as a network intent on keeping things firmly under white dominion – be it in the workplace or on the sports field.
Privilege still largely equals white in this country, and as has been pointed out, they will rile against almost all things that a black-led government will try to implement, but yet still benefiting from a world that has opened up even more for them under democracy.
They continue to mock efforts at nation-building; and their resistance is fierce, no more so than when it comes to efforts to empower black people.
Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and its later adapted incarnation, Broad-Based Economic Empowerment (BBBEE), have largely been made a mockery of by established businesses thumbing their collective noses at the government and society as a whole.
The Commission for Employment Equity’s annual report shows that top posts in the country are still held by white men.
Let’s just remind ourselves about the aim of BBBEE: it is a form of economic empowerment initiated by the South African government in response to criticism against narrow-based empowerment instituted in the country between 2003 and 2004.
Nefarious activities by companies who continue to window-dress at the expense of South Africa’s socio-economic progress will be tackled head-on, no matter how long it takes.
Economic redress is non-negotiable, as is Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment. That companies are using unwitting black employees to tick boxes shows how low they will stoop to protect their economic hegemony and their entrenched sense of superiority.
Acting BBBEEE commissioner, Zodwa Ntuli, was quoted as saying in 2016 that there are too many companies that are using black employees by putting them forward as stakeholders without their knowledge as a form of fronting in order to get a higher BBBEE ranking.
The commissioner rightly points out that this kind of action undermines transformation. One could add that companies that practice this are essentially against nation-building.
Ntuli’s work needs to be supported and will be supported by the government. Her office is tasked with making sure companies comply with the Act, not just in name or in spirit, but what its aforementioned aim spells out.
Transformation in all spheres of South African life is for the benefit of all citizens. The democratically elected government, more than 20 years into its tenure, is constantly reminded that a little over two decades should have been enough for it to have completely transformed South Africa.
Maybe it is time companies in South Africa are held to the same standard and expectations. The 17th Commission For Employment Equity (CEE) report showed that among other things, 68.5% of top management positions were occupied by Whites, 14.4% by Africans, 8.9% by Coloureds and 3.4% by foreign nationals.
Men occupied 78% of top management positions and women 22%, with people with disabilities constituting 1.2% of top management.
Whites occupied 72% of the positions in the private sector and Africans 73.2% of the positions in the public sector.
White people held 58.1% of senior management positions‚ Black people held 22.1%‚ Indian people held 10.6%‚ Coloured people held 7.7% and foreign nationals held 1.4%.
In the professionally qualified category, 41.5% of positions are occupied by Black people‚ 37.5% by White people‚ 9.7% by Coloured people‚ 8.5% by Indian people and 2.8% by foreign nationals.
Technically skilled positions were mostly held by Black people at 60.2%‚ followed by White people at 20.8%‚ Coloured people at 11.5%‚ Indian people at 5.8% and foreign nationals at 1.8%.
Semi-skilled labour positions are mostly held by Black people at 76.1%. At the unskilled level, 83.2% of positions are held by Black people.
Last year’s CEE Report unsurprisingly showed that the pace of transformation was, to say the least, pedestrian, especially at the upper levels of management where whites (especially males) still dominate.
This, despite, the common misconception that whites are being pushed into the margins by their black counterparts because they are being forced to do so because of legislation.
But the numbers don’t lie – there are nearly 70% (68.9%) white people at top management level, more than six times their Economic Active Population (EAP).
Indians at 8.6% have a representation of more than three times their EAP at this managerial level.
But the opposite is true for black South Africans who come in at a paltry 14.3%, while Coloured people are at 4.7% – both these demographics are clearly under-represented in relation to their EAP.
The report states that the top management level in the public sector is mostly populated by black South Africans, while whites are mostly concentrated in the private sector.
The CEE said the South African economy remains white male dominated in most sectors of the economy.
The CEE Report, citing figures from Statistics South Africa, shows that black South Africans account for 77.4% of EAP; coloureds 10%; Indians 2.7% and whites 9.9%.
(The Commission for Employment Equity is a statutory body established in terms of Section 28 of Employment Equity Act (No 55 of 1998) whose role is to advise the Minister of Labour on any matter concerning the Act, including policy and matters pertaining to the implementation towards achieving the objectives of the Act).
The report’s aim is to gauge the status of employment equity in South Africa and how the country has progressed in its workplace transformation. Clearly, progress has been slow. The CEE’s head was quoted as saying that a ‘culture of exclusivity’ existed in the workplace and this was one of the challenges to attaining employment equity.
The analysis proved there were ‘push-back’ factors – essentially an unwillingness by those holding the reigns to change their way of thinking in terms of transformation.
But the government will no longer tolerate non-compliance by companies. At the time of the report’s release in April last year, the Labour Ministry gave companies six months to get their house in order or face legal consequences.
We cannot expect societal shifts and stability without real economic change and parity across communities. It is plain for all to see that blacks and women are still getting the short end of the stick from companies who continue to flout employment equity legislation.
Institutionalised discrimination continues to hold back real transformation in companies as mentalities and attitudes have not changed much, more than two decades into democracy.
Therefore, Broad-Based Economic Empowerment has to be enforced and is here to stay. Economic apartheid cannot and must not be allowed to continue in its pernicious and destructive form.
Lwandile Mtsolo is the Chairperson of the SASCO in KZN