The Office of the ANC Chief Whip welcomes the passing today of the Employment Equity Amendment Bill by the National Council of Provinces.
The bill was passed by the majority of the NCOP parliamentarians, excluding the DA’s MPs who have since been ordered by their leader to withdraw their support.
The Bill gives effect to the fundamental Constitutional provisions of right to equality, fair labour practice and protection against unfair discrimination. It seeks to prohibit unfair discrimination against employees and to redress the legacies of apartheid in South African workplaces. The Bill compel employers with fifty or more employees or those who have certain specified financial turnover to ensure that suitably qualified persons from designated groups are afforded equal employment opportunities and are equitably represented in workplaces.
The Bill amends the Employment Equity Act of 1998 to, amongst others, change the definition of ‘designated groups’ with a view to limit beneficiaries of Affirmative Action to, amongst others, persons who were citizens of South Africa before the democratic era and their descendants. It also ensures equal pay for work of equal value; strengthens compliance and enforcement mechanisms; and increases non-compliance fines.
The Employment Equity Act requires that employers give due consideration to a “suitably qualified person” in the recruitment of members of designated groups. Such a person may have a combination of formal qualifications, prior learning, relevant experience and the ability to do the job. As President Nelson Mandela eloquently stated in 1996:
“[T]he special (Affirmative Action) measures that we envisage to overcome the legacy of past discrimination are not intended to ensure the advancement of unqualified persons, but to see to it that those who have been denied access to qualifications in the past can become qualified now, and those who have been qualified all along but overlooked because of past discrimination, are at last given their due…
The first point to be made is that affirmative action must be rooted in principles of justice and equality.”
Therefore the Bill seeks to give qualified and experienced Blacks the equal opportunities they deserve, which they would otherwise have not obtained simply because of the colour of their skin or their background.
As we have said, the DA’s somersault on this Bill is a confirmation of what most South Africans have always known: that the party is anti transformation; anti redress, anti social justice and anti Blacks. The DA’s contradictory stance on these measures clearly suggests that it supports the need for redress, as long as that does not place Black people on equal footing with their White counterparts. It is a similar position held during apartheid by its predecessor, the Progressive Party, which supported freedom and democracy as long as Africans did not have full voting rights.
The real question at the centre of the continuing meaningless and distractive debate within the DA is not who is liberal than the other or who is more conservative than the other. The question behind this debate is ‘what to do with these Blacks?’ This is a dilemma that has divided the party’s parliamentary caucus along racial lines, into black and white caucuses. It is a racial dilemma that has sent a blunt message to Black members and supporters to know their place. It is scandalous that a party that claims to be non-racial still speaks with forked tongues on matters of racial transformation almost two decades into democracy.
As the ruling party, we will continue to advance pieces of legislation that address historical injustices and ensure fair and equal demographic representation in our country’s economy.
By opposing redress, the DA has today undressed itself as a party whose existence is solely to defend and protect white privilege.