President Cyril Ramaphosa has said the business fraternity in South Africa needs to "urgently do some serious introspection" about a lack of transformation at the highest levels of the private sector.
In his weekly newsletter published on Monday morning, the president said top management in private companies is still dominated by white men, "although they make up just 5% of the economically active population".
"Africans only make up 15% of top management, despite accounting for 79% of the economically active population," he said.
Ramaphosa wrote the newsletter following a meeting with the leadership of the Black Business Council last week, where transformation was discussed.
In August, Labour and Employment Minister Thulas Nxesi said there had been little transformation in the top management of private sector workplaces since the passing of the Employment Equity Act some 20 years ago.
Private sector not matching public sector
Black economic empowerment and affirmative action remained important tools to further non-racial transformation in a country where stubborn inequality was punctuated by lack of representation in the private sector, said Ramaphosa. And while there has been progress in diversifying leadership in the public sector and state-owned entities, this progress had not been matched by the private sector.
Transforming the private sector in SA was necessary to fight systemic inequality and making business more reflective of society's demographics, he said, adding that SA must overcome the deep divisions that apartheid created in its society.
Ramaphosa said advancing black and women employees had to be a cornerstone of any South African company's operations, which meant succession planning, mentoring, training and skills transfer, and towards giving employees a meaningful stake in the companies they work for.
Ramaphosa on the weekend defended the appointment of Andre de Ruyter, a white male, for the top job at struggling power utility Eskom, according to TimesLive. At a fundraising gala for the SACP on Friday, he denied that SA's transformation agenda was moving backward, saying that De Ruyter had the "appropriate skills" and Eskom had had 11 black CEOs since 1994.