Slow crawl to normalcy

2014-04-13 15:00

The annual reports of the Commission for Employment Equity are depressingly interchangeable.

They always say the same thing. At the top, transformation looks like the glacial attrition of white dominion and not a positive drive for black advancement.

When employers go out looking for new top executives, there’s no less than a 50% chance it’s still going to be a white person.

That’s according to this week’s report, the 14th since the employment equity regime was instituted. Quite apart from 62% of the top managers being white, 51% of newly appointed top managers were white too.

The more shocking thing is this actually reduces white representation at the top because the base is so high.

Make no mistake, the black middle class exists.

Its members are there in the report, swelling the ranks of professionals and white-collar jobs.

But black bosses remain rare.

Unless we are prepared to wait a decade or two for the current dynamic to result in a business elite that looks like the country, something has to give.

From the get-go, the relatively meagre fruit of affirmative action has been blamed either on racism or on a lack of suitably qualified candidates.

Add to that the ownership of private companies and the smaller employers on which our economic development depends, and what you end up with is another set of “evil triplets” – a counterpoint to poverty, unemployment and inequality.

We need to tackle all of them.

That means punishing racism. That means training and career development that works.

It also means black-owned businesses need to thrive.

Our transformation and industrial policies cannot be seen as operating in isolation from each other.

Otherwise, we might wake up one day with the commission’s 24th annual report telling us, once again, only one in five top managers and one in four senior managers are African, and no one can agree on why that is.

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