Open letter to Ferial Haffajee

2012-09-07 14:38

Dirk Hermann

Open letter to Ferial Haffajee, editor of City Press

Dear Ferial Haffajee,

I’m writing this letter in reaction to your article Woolworths boycott brigade of 6 September 2012.

In your article you refer to your own and to coloured South Africans’ struggle to find your place at Wits. You write that the only reason your generation could “clamber out of one class, out of a distorted destiny” was affirmative action. You write that you are “deeply grateful for my place at the table ... Without affirmative action, I would likely be a retrenched clothing factory worker or a low-level banking clerk.”

You use the saga at Woolworths as the setting and stand up for Woolworths’s affirmative action process.

However, you would not be able to apply for the post that Woolworths advertised in the Western Cape since you are not an “African Black”. Only “African Blacks” can apply for the post in the Planning and Marketing Division.

This Woolworths advertisement excludes people like you, not based on your disadvantage in the past, but your race. A sum is made based on the national racial demographics and if your race group is overrepresented, you are excluded.

There is no difference between Woolworths’s approach to affirmative action and that of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) or Jimmy Manyi’s controversial views. Everything is based on absolute representation of the country’s racial demographics. You cannot make South Africa equal by counting everyone by their race.

In an open letter to Manyi, Trevor Manuel stated that his views constitute “racism in die mould of HF Verwoerd”. This is because the full consequence of this argument is that people have to migrate to be appointed or promoted, in other words, it is a social engineering programme. This is also what the DCS testified in Solidarity’s case against them.

This mathematical approach does not take your plea of disadvantages in the past and hope for the future into account; it only considers your race. It is no longer affirmative action, but a racial count.

This is why the Employment Equity Act prohibits practices of absolute exclusion. It leads to absurd results. Article 14 of the Act prohibits quotas and the explanatory memorandum to the Act states that there should not be any absolute ceilings for appointments or promotions for any individual.

In the case of PSA vs the Minister of Justice, the court found that provision should also be made for the legitimate expectations of the designated group.

In the Barnard case it was found that absolute exclusion affects the dignity and equality of those who are disadvantaged. In the case against the DCS on behalf of February and four other coloured employees, the court also found that the Act does not allow quotas. The case deals with the exclusion of coloured employees in the Western Cape based on the national demography.

Woolworths’s absolute exclusion regarding applications for post is therefore, without doubt, not sanctioned by the Employment Equity Act.

To defend something that is not legally allowed with the argument that the ends justify the means is very dangerous. It undermines the rule of law. Everything done under the banner of affirmative action is not right, fair or morally justifiable. 

One cannot be a selective democrat and fight for freedom of speech on the one hand, but turn a blind eye when an institution threatens the rule of law. If you believe in the supremacy of the Constitution, you believe in the full authority of the Constitution. If this authority defends the right to dignity and equality for non-designated groups, you should also protect these rights.

We cannot allow practice to determine the law. We are a constitutional state in which transformation must happen, not a transformational state in which the constitution must function. As an activist who defends our liberal, democratic constitution, you should join us in the fight against Woolworths. It is not a fight against affirmative action, but for the rule of law so people like you can also apply for any post at Woolworths and that disadvantaged people’s right to dignity and equality are protected.

Dirk Hermann
Deputy General Secretary: Solidarity

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

  • louis.hager.12 - 2012-09-07 16:50

    @ Dirk Herman. Don't argue with idiots. They'll drag you down to their level and bea you with experience.

      pieter0827006294 - 2012-09-07 20:37

      Did you notice how News24 has subtly hidden this article away from their main page

      yvonne.styger.3 - 2012-09-08 09:21

      News 24 does not only openly support the NSA and what it stands for, but also receives a nice advertising income from Worthless. They manipulate ALL news items and comments, here. You will fall on your back if you knew how many of the commentators here, are employees on Med. 24.

  • thebe.tau - 2012-09-07 18:05

    We should support woolworths only based on who is against it, the dinosaurs have woken up.

  • pieter0827006294 - 2012-09-07 18:06

    I'm wondering why Woolworths now claims on their website that this is a carefully orchestrated plot to discredit them. (I also had a look at directors dealing in their shares and noticed something very strange...)Norman Thomson sold 112,892 shares(Transaction valueR6 774 547.32) on the 3rd September. Funny enough Simon Susman also sold 307,535 shares (Transaction value R18 454 898.57) on the very same day and what do you know, Me Rylands did Off market transfer of shares (Transactions valued +-R8,000,000). Wonder what was going on in their minds at the time, mabe they had a feeling something was going to happen; but what do I know right?

      felicity.burnett - 2012-09-08 07:21

      That's an important observation, Eltorro.

  • margie.visser - 2012-09-08 17:36

    Well said!

  • peter.flicker.75 - 2012-09-09 11:36

    According to statistics,in 2010 about 14% of the population of the Western Cape where considered to be white. The figure for SA as a whole is about 9%. When I go into a large Woolworths store such as Cavendish Square, not one of the shelf packers or till clerks are white. Surely, one would expect to see one or two white faces among youngsters in their first job. I suspect that when calculating their demographics, Woolworths jobs for whites are taken up with senior management and directors, thus blocking access to moderately educated whites new to the labour market.

  • hoepfne - 2012-09-09 22:24

    I don't know why you wasted your energy to write this article, the "bad teeth comlex" clearly benefited from BEE, AA, and equity, think you are going to change her view!!! She was even so arogent as to blame the whities who generously drove her around, as wrong for doing so, it is like asking Malema for some intelligent conversation, you ain't gonna get it. Thanks for the isight into your legal successes there is hope afterall. PS. how about claiming these legalfees not from the various ministers but from the actual supervisor of those you have helped. Only by affecting there pockets directly, will peoples racist views change.

  • paul.lotz.92 - 2012-09-11 09:37

    Once again Dirk as with all or the majority of white people misses the point in the 'struggle' to transform South Africa...Dirk represents the mine owners union,now called Solidarity,a union that represented whites only before 1994 and they continues to do so...why? Why could mine workers union not join numsa or num?...the answer is obvious,because Dirk as most other white people don't want to change and want to protect their 'way of life/culture/property and wealth in this democracy.What he forgets is that SA is far from transformed and that white people are still living in luxury where as the rest do SA lives in poverty which he will probably blame on the new government. Dirk is either blind or stuck in hes gated community to see the challenges that we in SA must overcome! AA ,BEE,EE forces white business to transform without it they wont as is prevalent today and by the comments of the white readers !

  • phlip.volschenk - 2012-09-19 21:33

      phlip.volschenk - 2012-09-19 21:36

      Need I say more

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