Zuma ‘assures’ coloureds, Indians

March 8, 2011

By Michelle Pietersen and Gaye Davis

Proposed changes to employment equity law would not impact on job opportunities for coloured or Indian people, President Jacob Zuma said on Monday.

Zuma, who returned on Saturday from back-to-back visits to France and Mauritania and will attend an African Union Peace and Security Council meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Tuesday, met Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant on Monday to discuss the changes to the law, and particularly the concerns of the coloured and Indian communities.

In a statement issued by The Presidency, Zuma moved to quell fears that the amendments would cause job losses, his first direct intervention since he called for restraint while in Paris.

“President Jacob Zuma has assured members of the Indian and coloured communities that government will not enact or implement any legislation that is in conflict with the constitution of the Republic and the non-racial ethos and foundations of South Africa,” the statement said.

“The minister assured the president that the legislation is intended to improve the employment prospects of the designated groups, and not to make it difficult for them to obtain employment or to advance in their careers.”

Changes to the act “that were of concern” relate to a section dealing with the factors to be taken into account in determining whether an employer was compliant with the act.

As it stands, the act provides for the “demographic profile of the national and regional economically active population (EAP)” to be considered.

The amendment refers to the “demographic profile of the economically active population”.

“It is important to note that nowhere in the proposed change is there a proposal to remove ‘regional’ and leave ‘national’.

“In fact, both ‘national’ and ‘regional’ were removed,” the statement said.

Employers had been asking the Department of Labour over the years for clarity on how they should implement both regional and national demographics in their workplaces, which was the reason for the proposed change – to give employers “the flexibility to decide whether to use regional or national demographics, depending on their operations.

Zuma said: “These changes do not in any way affect negatively the employment opportunities for the coloured and/or Indian population.

“In fact, it makes it easier for employers to comply with the law and create more job opportunities for all the designated groups.’’

The government had a duty to work together in both the private and public sectors to ensure that employment equity legislation succeeded in correcting the “wrongs of the past and benefits Africans, coloureds, Indians, women, youth and persons with disability”.

“Members of the public will have an opportunity to make representations to Parliament at the right time.

“Government remains fully committed to the equality clauses in the constitution and that the state will not discriminate against anybody on the basis of colour, race, religion and other aspects of diversity,” Zuma added.

Cosatu on Monday also welcomed Oliphant’s assurance.

Spokesman Patrick Craven said it confirmed the federation’s view that “the swart gevaar scare … had no basis in reality”.

“It was a mischievous and dangerous attempt to whip up fear and anger among the coloured and Indian communities in the run-up to local government elections.”

The amendment bill was drafted when government spokesman Jimmy Manyi was its director-general.

Comments he made about an “over-supply” of coloured people in the Western Cape a year ago were uploaded on YouTube by minority trade union Solidarity, which is bitterly opposed to affirmative action and quotas.

When the furore erupted, it was reported that up to a million coloured people in the Western Cape and 300 000 Indian people in KwaZulu-Natal risked losing their jobs – claims dismissed by Oliphant.

According to data provided by The Presidency:

– The demographic profile of the economically active population in the Western Cape, as published by StatsSA in the Labour Force Survey of September 2009, referring to people aged15 to 64 years old and either employed or seeking work, reflected that coloured citizens – at 14.3 percent – were “grossly under-represented at the top management level”.

– The 10th Commission on Employment Equity Report, released by the Labour Department in July 2010, revealed that transformation in the workplace remained “very slow”

“The report indicated that, 10 years after the introduction of the Employment Equity Act, white men continued to hold 63 percent of all top management positions in the private sector.

African women were at 6 percent and coloured and Indian women were at 1 percent each,” the statement said. – Political Bureau

Posted on http://www.iol.co.za

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