B-BBEE and Sports Quotas - Do These Empower, or Merely Promote?

2016-05-17 07:36

This is an extremely sensitive issue and I will try to deal with it as sensitively as I can.

I, as a White male, appreciate that the economic and social empowerment of the country's "previously disadvantaged" people (essentially, Blacks) is a priority.

I say "essentially" because the "rich-White" and "poor-Black" relationship is becoming increasingly blurred – with the children of rich Blacks receiving excellent education, and first-class sports coaching/training, in the country's top private schools, and with an increasing number of White children being raised in squatter camps - obviously without the excellent education, and sporting, facilities!!

However, to keep this article as simple as possible, let's "park" the fact that we have increasing numbers of very rich Blacks, and of very poor Whites.

The key question must therefore be - how should one empower disadvantaged people?

Does one provide them with the means to advance, or does one simply advance them, or does one do a combination of both?

I see a number of potential problems associated with advancement which is based purely on racial classification, and not on merit – here are some of the problems that come to mind.

- It can have the effect of "cheapening" genuine Black achievement (in sport, business, entertainment, and in other endeavours);

- It's likely to perpetuate and exacerbate racial divisions that we inherited from the Apartheid era;

- It may even entrench certain "racial stereotyping" (why the need to "force" promotions, based on race?); and/or

- It's likely to be very costly to the country's economy and to its sporting success (that's if race selection trumps merit selection).

Firstly, let me state quite clearly, and unequivocally, that I believe in, and support:

- The transformation of our economy; and

- The transformation of our various sporting codes

… but certainly not in the manner that our Government has sought to implement both B-BBEE and "sport transformation".

That's because at the root core of these policies is the demand to force "promotion" (based on race), and, in my opinion, does not truly "empower".

I was brought up in a culture of having to apply myself and to work hard for what I achieved, and that there were no "short-cuts" to success – I learnt that the World was a competitive place where the able and the qualified rose to the top of their particular fields of endeavour.

It therefore runs against my concept of what is fair and just to promote people simply because of their race.

Consider the example of selecting a mediocre White soccer player to play for Bafana Bafana because the side is considered to be too Black, and therefore not representative of the country's demographics.

That surely would be wrong?

When one operates within a system which appoints, promotes, and/or selects without reference to ability/merit, it soon becomes confusing, for all, as to who genuinely deserves recognition, and who has simply achieved recognition because of (in our case) their race!

I believe that we should rather be empowering our "previously disadvantaged" people by providing them with the OPPORTUNITIES (lacking during the Apartheid era) to acquire the ability, skills, and experience, to be promoted, and to succeed, in business. That means providing them with top-quality education, training, and mentorship.

Promotion will automatically follow the successful completion of the necessary "ground-work" ie by successfully applying what one has learnt, and experienced, in practice.

Similarly, I believe that we should rather be empowering our "previously disadvantaged" sportsmen/women by providing them with the OPPORTUNITIES (lacking during the Apartheid era) to acquire the ability, skills, and experience, to advance within their respective sporting codes.

That means providing them with top-quality sports instruction, facilities and training at school level (that appears to be hardly happening now!); the identification of those young men and women with the potential to succeed and for them to attend specialised sporting academies.

Advancement, to the very top levels of the various sports, will automatically follow for those who excel from this base platform.

I don't believe that Government's current view that transformation is simply a "numbers game" is good for SA, nor for the pride/ego of those that this type of transformation policy seeks to promote/advance.

We have had, and continue to have, extremely successful Black businessmen/women, and Black sportsmen/women, who have achieved at the highest level WITHOUT being artificially pushed "up the ladder". In my opinion, having policies which promote and select people purely on racial lines can "cheapen" the achievements of those Black people who have (genuinely) excelled in business/sport – and that's because everybody becomes confused as to who is achieving on merit, and who is not!

Let me close by quoting the example of Protea's cricketer, Charl Langeveldt who, as a Coloured cricketer, made the decision to withdraw from the 2008 Proteas squad, to tour India, because he believed that he had been selected as a "quota player"

Langeveldt had this to say:

"I have always fought for a place in the team, but I don't want to be put there because of my colour.

"Up to now I have been very happy in my role in the ODI (One-Day International) team and I know my value there. I'm quite upset by this now and I'm going to need a bit of time to consider my future."

How many "Langeveldts" does SA sport (and likewise, SA business!) have that we don't know about?


I doubt it!

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