In light of Carin Smith’s article (5 March 2014) on Fin 24’s website, about transformation in the aviation industry, I have finally decided to lend my voice to the debate concerning how much transformation is needed before we have transformed. To prove my point, I refer to the Democratic Alliance, a party which has continuously been criticised as anti-transformative and sexist, but has still managed to include three people of colour and two women in its top five management positions. Surely twenty years into our democracy we should consider it time to provide skill training without the constraints of race and ethnicity. In the words of Kirstin Henrad, we should not only focus on reconciliation, but also on the human rights of all South Africans.
Transformation by means of ethnicity is a risky business, because if we define an individual’s employment by the colour of their skin, how can we expect such an individual to value himself by any other criteria? Granted, for some transformation means empowering those who were previously disadvantaged, but is it worth taking opportunities away from citizens purely based on the colour of their skin? Deeper underlying issues are plaguing the socio-economic landscape of South Africa, while the government stares blindly at racial issues. In Pretoria members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) are marching to the Union Building (News 24, 6 March 2014) amid struggles over wages, demanding minimum salaries of R12 500, while Eskom is planning load shedding which deprives citizens (of all races I might add) of a basic human necessity.
The disillusionment of citizens is reflected in their apathy toward the national elections, scheduled to take place on 7 May 2014. Despite the government’s best efforts to improve gender and racial equality, the discontentment with the government lies closer to home. In quoting the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), Davis stated in September of last year that the perception that racial transformation has failed, was a false observation but that dissatisfaction with the leading party is a persistent factor in considering the South African political climate. While stating that much still needs to be done in the context of transformation, it seems that service delivery lies closer to the heart of the voter. In addition the SAIRR has argued that if the income gap, between white and black is to diminish, the answer lies more in creating job opportunities, than it does in equalising the pay grade.
I do suppose that this piece offers a lob-sided opinion of the situation, but I urge the reader to consider the archaic nature of policies such as the Employment Equity Act of 1998. When we consider the spirit of equality our democracy was based upon, what values do policies, like the aforementioned Equity Act, represent. Is it fair to compel society to employ via “demographic representativeness” or are we taking opportunities away from the “haves” to give to the “have nots” while ignoring deeper lying economic and social issues such as unemployment and the inability of the state to provide sufficiently for the basic needs of the masses.
I conclude with the following statistics from the SAIRR: Voter apathy has risen from 14% of eligible voters not registering to vote in 1994 to an estimated 41% of voters choosing to abstain their vote in 2014. This while there has been progress in fields of transformation and black economic empowerment. To make my point even more clear, the number of service delivery protests has risen by 93% for the period 2004/2005 to 2012/2013. Perhaps what is needed in party politics is a paradigm shift from “demographic representativeness” toward freedom and equality for ALL.