Equity policies work

2013-11-26 10:00

A deracialised labour market means a greater tomorrow for all citizens.

In the 20 years of post-apartheid South Africa, the age-old “swart gevaar” argument is an attempt to rally our white counterparts to resist what is adjudged as the usurpation of white power. It echoes the DA’s “fight back” campaign, which now also finds resonance in the Freedom Front’s “stop die ANC” campaign.

Inherent is an advocacy that things should remain as they have always been – exclusively white and privileged.

In part, it dictates that the fate of the black majority should forever be in the hands of their white counterparts.

Liberal whites

This is reminiscent of the attitude of liberal whites towards the black electorate in the early 20th century.

Circa 1908, the African electorate in the Cape had opted not to field a candidate in favour of their “fair-minded” white counterparts.

As Dr Pallo Jordan reminds us: “Such faith had been found to be misplaced when the constitution for the Union of South Africa was drawn up with its notorious ‘colour bar’ clauses.”

The ANC thus prioritised nation-building.

That is, creating a united, nonracial, nonsexist and democratic society.

In practical terms, this meant repealing all racist laws and putting in place enablers for an inclusive and equal society in all spheres of life.

Ultimately, and most importantly, a liberated majority would be divorced from feelings of being pariahs and slaves in the land of their birth.

Transforming exploitative and racist patterns in society at large as well as in the economy, in particular, is good for our country.

Deracialised and inclusive economic ownership patterns add positively to the already remarkable structural economic advances, which arise from the policy changes made by the ANC.

It is a fact that these policies have, over the past two decades, contributed to the tripling of the country’s gross domestic product.

Such advances confirm the irrefutable argument that ensuring the majority of the population participates directly in the economy enables greater expansion and growth.

Country’s wealth

It is a reasonable expectation that the 80% of the almost 52?million people of South Africa should share in their country’s wealth and ascend the commanding heights of its economy.

At the moment, and precisely because of the broad-based black economic empowerment policies of the ANC, 21% of the black majority have ownership in the JSE. This is commendable, considering this was less than 5% in 1994.

But even this is insufficient if we envisage transforming not only the economy but the outlook of our society, now and into the future.

Along with increased investment, such concerted efforts increase the potential of our economy to attain the desired rate of growth.

Report 

The recent Goldman Sachs report, 20 Years of Freedom, points to the fact that “whilst unemployment has remained high with a net 900?000 added to the unemployed in 20 years, those with employment have in fact grown by 4.1?million in the period”.

This is a result, to some measure, of scrapping the job reservation legislation that set aside certain jobs for whites only.

The reality of such racist policies meant that the black majority was barred from technical studies such as engineering.

This accounts for why former black universities had no engineering faculties.

At the same time, blacks were restricted from technikons and colleges.

Therefore, ensuring access to further education and training colleges by black learners transcends narrow racial arguments.

The present almost R2?billion investment in further education and training, where we had 657?690 learners last year, should be seen as a deliberate means to address the national skills shortage resulting from myopic racist education and labour regulations.

The fact that more African people access university education today than in 1994 – that is, a mere 150?000 in 1994 compared with 750?000 last year (higher education department figures showed an actual 952?495 enrolment head count) – is a result of serious investment by the state.

Positive spin-offs

This will have positive spin-offs for the country’s resource pool in research and development, which is a challenge highlighted in the National Development Plan (NDP), the Global Competitive Index as well as the Goldman Sachs reports.

The growth in the black middle class, about 250% over the past 20 years, is an indication of an open and inclusive society.

Our society’s changing reality reflects the core of the ANC and its policy.

It is about its fundamental principle of nonracialism, which finds articulation in the Freedom Charter with the words: “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.”

All facets of our country should represent this.

We should be encouraged that some in the opposition parties recognise the progressive content of the policies of the ruling alliance, and want to embrace them.

Ideological standpoint

This is so because, while we do not share the same ideological standpoint, it means that they endeavour to share a common understanding on the historical and present challenges of our country.

They agree on how those obstacles should be confronted in order to bring about a better society for all.

Instead of moving back to exclusive white minority privilege, we should, together, build one nation.

We must resolve to rid ourselves of our collectively ugly past, and be unfazed in our effort to build a better life for all.

»?Duarte is the ANC deputy secretary-general

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