Transformation smoke and mirrors

2009-10-17 10:57

FOR  those who have long recognised that the

so-called transformation efforts of many organisations are insulting shams of

entrenched racism, political cronyism and old boys’ club networks, Jimmy Manyi’s

appointment is opportune.

While many voices have tried to discredit the latest ­Employment

Equity Commission report, the numbers speak for themselves. The South African

private sector has failed to absorb or ­promote black people, ­especially black

women. However, it would be a gross misrepresentation to speak of transformation

merely in terms of affirmative action. It is much more than that.

The South African transformation project was meant to entail the

meaningful transfer of a portion of the country’s wealth from the sole ownership

of a minority of whites and foreigners to blacks and other disadvantaged groups.

This transfer was supposed to be accompanied by the sharing of vital skills that

would allow the new sharers of the wealth to manage and grow it, and ­so create

new wealth.

Given that many BEE deals have been exposed as elaborate scams, the

“owners” of these “empowerment” companies still need white men to run them and

the country continues to suffer from a skills shortage, one has to wonder what

has been happening over the last 10 years of the Employment Equity Act, the BEE

Act and other ­related legislation.

What happened to all the work many a glossy yearly ­report claims

has been done? These are some of the vexing issues we hope Manyi will help

answer now that he has the authority to make things happen. He should get the

support of all South Africans who claim to want to advance transformation.

Transformation is about ­investing in all the human capital a

country has. What we have seen in the last 15 years have been token efforts by

everyone from private companies to many Setas, leaving us with an increasingly

uncompetitive workforce and economy. It is time for RSA Inc to take stock and

think of constructive ways of dealing with our human ­capital challenges.

It is already recognised that one of the biggest barriers to basic

service delivery is the lack of capacity to implement many of the interventions

the state has set money aside for. If we are to prevent a revolution of the

neglected poor we have to arrest this state of ­affairs. A single-minded

dedication to developing critical skills should lie at the heart of that


I’m sure Manyi knows he is not the DG of Transformation and will

deal with two further scourges that continue to plague our world of work. The

first is the continuing abuse of poor workers by the labour- broking industry.

While there are ethical labour brokers, those who openly exploit

the vulnerability of the unemployed cannot be ­allowed to continue. For people

to be released from their jobs only to be rehired via a labour broker at less

pay is clearly unethical and must be declared illegal. By the same token, other

practices such as the arbitrary and unfair dismissal of workers for pursuing

such fundamental rights as belonging to a trade union or organising their

colleagues into one should also be declared illegal.

These dismissed workers are called troublemakers, instigators and

other pre-1994 terms and labour brokers are instructed to remove them from site.

This ensures that the core employer is not burdened with CCMA hearings and is

able to maintain a de­unionised workplace even though the right to organise

workers is entrenched in the Bill of Rights.

Lastly, Manyi must urgently deal with the distressing sight of

black labourers sitting glumly in the back of open and unsafe bakkies while

­being carted off like mules to some construction site. If we are serious about ­restoring human dignity then every workplace has to treat safety as its most important priority. And errant bosses must end up behind bars.
Zibi is communications manager for mining company Xstrata

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