A floundering dream

2012-03-19 00:00

ONE of my immediate plans is to help my fellow countrymen and countrywomen find jobs.

Having experimented with raising money and profile in order to take part in arts and culture work in the past, I decided this year that it was time to do the same with professional services i.e. offering job placement support to the unemployed or job seekers.

With the help of friends, I met a person who is registered with the Sector Education and Training Authority (Seta) that I could work with to do this.

As part of my research I ended up having an informative telephone conversation with someone from Business­ Unity South Africa (Busa­) in Gauteng. Costa Pierides identified himself as one of the strategic representatives of this organisation that brings together black and white business interest groups.

Pierides, who my Internet search identified as an independent businessperson, told me that for each company to be a member of Busa, a joining fee of R100 000 was required.

I asked myself: “Where would an emerging black business find this kind of money?”

But then Peirides explained­ that Busa was in the process of establishing a forum for emerging businesses which would affiliate to Busa as a collective­ at an affordable fee.

I thought that this was great news.

We spoke about the government subsidy scheme for unemployed youths. According to this scheme, which is supposed to kick off in April this year, (if the Congress­ of South African Trade Unions does not succeed in stifling this wonderful job-creation initiative), the government will subsidise new young recruits to get jobs for the first time in the private sector­.

Cosatu thinks that this will pre-judice older employees who may be sacked if youngsters are recruited. With all due respect, some of us disagree with Cosatu.

My research had indicated that the government was expecting Busa to facilitate discourse on the subsidy scheme on behalf of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), and that the national finance ministry has set aside R5 billion to recruit close to half a million youngsters over a specific period of time.

It sounded very much the same as my good old days on the local arts and culture council, which I helped to launch in Pietermaritzburg, before resigning and returning to university.

Like the business council, our arts council was aimed at uniting black and white arts interest formations with the aim of distributing arts resources equitably among established and emerging arts interest groups.

I was convinced that the failure of the Pietermaritzburg arts and culture council, which I was privileged to lead for almost a year, was mostly because of the immaturity of my leadership as a young person­ who was susceptible to radicalism.

But I have observed that Busa, which comprised the white-dominated Business South Africa and the black-dominated Black Business­ Council, had mature leaders.

And our arts council floundered because of more or less the same reasons as Busa’s disbandment.

The country’s government of national unity was discontinued for the same reasons too. I got the impression that the government of national unity did not survive­ precisely because the interests of the black majority were bound to be overwhelming and it was not in the interest of white representatives from other political­ parties to be a part of that transitional government. And this applies to all fields, be they politics­, the economy, sports, etc. It would seem that whites were quite content to have a separatist approach to life in South Africa and this has not yet changed.

Almost 20 years into our democracy, the country’s progressive leadership is still calling upon black and white farmers to colla-borate and work together amid racial­ or cultural prejudice. There must be similar examples in other fields too.

It seems that the failure of black and white South Africans to work together in relative harmony in order to achieve common goals or mutually beneficial objectives is phenomenal.

How long will this failure persist? Will we not regret these lost opportunities when a radical black or white group emerges to redefine the values and ethos that the new democratic government and our world-class Constitution seek to entrench?

• Simphiwe Mkhize is a KwaZulu-Natal provincial government communications acting deputy manager. He writes in his personal capacity.

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