South Africa has been operating under a post apartheid government for 20 years. Given that all new entrants to the workforce today have been educated entirely under a post-apartheid government, are we not doing both them and ourselves a disservice by continuing to discriminate between graduates and matriculants on the basis of race as is the case with the BEE element of Employment Equity?
The race of an individual should not have an impact on their ability to perform a specific job function; surely their education and abilities should be the only criteria they should be hired on. Does the continued implementation of a policy of preferential employment not entrench discrimination and, through implication, suggest that the previously disadvantaged community remain disadvantaged?
Although Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) began as a way to redress the imbalance brought about by apartheid, it was also meant to create and stimulate economic growth in South Africa and the time has come where it is beginning to have the opposite effect.
The South African government has for years claimed to support local small business and to see these businesses as the greatest source of job creation and by extension having the greatest impact on the South African economy; but BEE policies have begun hamstringing small businesses through forced hiring practices and prejudicial BEE scoring policies.
Small businesses need to function and deliver only of the highest standard in order to remain competitive and whilst BEE has some merits, it should not be blindly implemented ignoring the skills needed by the person filling the position, as this can only result in a degradation of service. It also needs to have a timeline after which it should not apply; but clearly since the BEE scorecard has just been revised once again, putting yet further pressure on smaller local businesses, there is no potential end in sight.
The education available in this country remains largely skewed, leaving more of the previously disadvantaged less prepared for the workforce. This cannot be solved by BEE, as a business cannot be made to hire someone without the skills to perform the job, regardless of their race.
Late last year, Africa Check called into question the government’s “one school a week” project. The department of basic education claimed to be replacing a “mud school” a week in the Eastern Cape. It seemed like an impressive accomplishment, making serious inroads into the education issues SA faces, but further investigation found that the schools, although “handed over” were often largely unfinished.
Perhaps the government should focus more on really investing in education services which would empower new entrants of all races and ensure their skill sets are far more comparable, instead of paying lip service through unfulfilled promises.
There are most certainly ways in which the government could begin to redress the imbalances of the past, in a way that actually benefits future generations of South African employees and the economy, but that, in my view, is through improved education not Bullying Economic Enterprises (BEE).