Don’t create slaves of a new system

2013-11-25 10:00

Dear Ferial,

In your column of November 19 2013, published on the City Press website, you write: “I am a proud affirmative action candidate. If it were not for the constitutional clause addressing redress and the laws that flowed from them, I would not have this great job.

“In fact, if apartheid’s end had not been structured into steps to redress its impact, we would be up a creek without a paddle. And I’d be stuck in Industria West behind a bank desk or in an unemployment queue dying a little every day.”

You also write: ”So, in humility, let me stake this claim. I am a grateful and proud beneficiary of employment equity and empowerment laws.”

This statement is simply not true.

Your success is not the result of employment equity and empowerment laws.

You studied at Wits as far back as 1986 and obtained your BA degree in 1989.

You were employed by the Weekly Mail in 1991 and were a senior Financial Mail journalist at around the same time the Employment Equity Act came into effect.

The Black Economic Empowerment Act was only passed in 2003. Hence, your success began before 1994 and bears testimony to exceptional perseverance and skill.

You further write: “The employment equity laws gave me the boost I coveted and a space to grow. Without them, I’d be nothing.”

You were never destined to be stuck in Industria West behind a bank desk or in an unemployment queue.

You conjured it up in your article for dramatic effect.

You obtained a degree, were employed and progressed to become a senior journalist without the help of legislation.

Reading your work. I understand why you have achieved success – you are a remarkable journalist.

You were well on your way to becoming the editor of major South African publications without the help of legislation.

Moreover, the reality is that the current legislation would disadvantage you more than it would benefit you.

Like Jenny Naidoo of the SA Police Service and the employees of the department of correctional services have experienced, affirmative action legislation is of increasingly little benefit to you if you are not a black African.

You are not successful because of affirmative action legislation; you are successful in spite of it.

Your article is probably the most disempowering one I have ever read.

Underlying the article is a complete dependence on the system.

The message you are sending to young people in South Africa is that the system will take care of them.

You are disempowering a generation of young South Africans.

You are not helping to create a generation of confident workers and entrepreneurs.

On the contrary, a generation of tenderpreneurs and self-doubting workers is being created at best. You are teaching a new generation that they can’t get there on their own steam. You are the perfect example of someone who has been successful because of brilliant skill and, as such, you can take up the role of inspiring white, black, Indian and coloured young people.

Likewise, thousands of the black elite escaped from the system. Their stories need to be told.

Given your inspirational potential, your message to young people should be: take responsibility for yourself, break free from systems, and become entrepreneurs and committed workers.

Your article advocates a culture of dependence.

The paradox of your article is that you are also sending a message to white young people: ”White man, you, are on your own.”

Ferial, my request to you is simple.

Don’t prejudice people’s freedom from the consequences of one discriminatory system by making them slaves of a newsystem.

Your story is far more empowering and inspiring than that.

»?Hermann is executive officer of the Solidarity Movement

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