Affirmative Action (AA) is undeniably one of those sensitive issues that invoke unpleasant emotions, especially from the beneficiaries of the past unjust system. But is AA a nasty piece of legislation it is made out to be?
To borrow an analogy from Trevor Noah: Black and white people were born equal but apartheid cut off the legs of black people and so they remained without legs until 1994. Affirmative Action is like the running blades same as those of Oscar Pistorius. It seeks to help black people play catch-up. And if you have been without legs for more than 50 years it is going to take a long time to catch up with those who have been running all their lives.
Our fellow white compatriots need to be very sensitive about issues like this and instead of attacking every effort at redress come up instead with solutions on how best to reverse the legacy of our shameful past. They are needed to engage and share their know-how for the good of the country and its people and most importantly for racial harmony and peace.
They myth that Affirmative Action favours unqualified black people over skilled white people is without substance, and serves only to stigmatise this noble policy.
White society need to understand that it cannot be business as usual and the transition from apartheid to the new democratic dispensation is bound to come with some adjustments, some might be unsavoury but for the sake of peace and reconciliation those adjustments need to be embraced.
What exactly is AA when practiced in the workplace? In most cases AA has nothing to do with a particular race; in fact in the public service AA favours white people. If you have 9 employees, 5 white and 4 black and a vacant post opens AA dictates that the employee to fill that vacant post could not be white because there is already an over representation of white people. The new employee could either be black, coloured or Indian. Should an employer not find a suitable candidate from the other racial groups after advertising the vacant post for 3 months, the law allows the employer to hire a candidate from the over represented race.
AA does not force employers to hire unqualified black people.
It is disheartening that legislation like AA had to become a necessity and forced down the throats of unwilling employers. As a nation we should have come together and shared ideas on how best to undo the legacy of apartheid with white people acknowledging its ravaging effects on the black community and working together to find solutions. However that did not happen and it was left to the government to come up with solutions on our behalf.
Reconciliation is a task to be shouldered by civil society not politicians. After 18 years we are yet to find common ground because instead of forming organisations that fostered social cohesion and harmony we formed forums that promote the interests of one race over the other.
But it is never too late, the time has come for voices of reason from both sides of the divide to come to the fore and be heard. The country is on a precipice; are we going to push it over or are we going to save it.
It is our call.
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