Solidarity vows to fight affirmative action in Concourt

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate.

March 18, 2011

South Africa’s affirmative action policies will be taken all the way to the Constitutional Court if necessary to prevent race quotas becoming an integral part of the South African law.

This is the vow of Solidarity deputy general secretary Dirk Hermann, who has led a campaign against what he calls “the Manyi amendments” to the labour laws. These include an amendment to the Employment Equity Act that he argues will impose national demographic norms on workforces of 50 people or more. Africans make up 73 percent of the population and this would need to be reflected across the country.

Hermann told the Cape Town Press Club yesterday that affirmative action in South Africa “is sick to the core” and the government needed to convene a summit on the issue.

Solidarity has campaigned against the law, arguing that it would discriminate particularly against coloureds in the Western Cape and Indians in KwaZulu-Natal. Whites were also being targeted for retrenchment or not being promoted because they exceeded their workplace quotas of 12 percent.

Government spokesman Jimmy Manyi, who heads the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), told the portfolio committee on communications that Indians were overrepresented at the GCIS. “Our target is 3 percent and we have 15.5 percent.

“Black people represent 76 percent of the population, but at GCIS we have a 56 percent representation. They are therefore under-represented. Nationally, coloureds represent 11 percent of the population and we have 10.9 percent, so things are almost perfect there.”

Manyi, a former labour director-general, added that whites represented 12 percent of the national population but at the GCIS “they are also over-represented”.

Lashing out at this prescriptive world view of affirmative action, Hermann described the Manyi vision as “a cold and clinical mathematical approach. Injustice does not come into the equation, nor is it a corrective action. Everything must be an exact replica of the country’s demographics.”

Hermann said the “finely balanced social engineering programme” had to be stopped in its tracks before the constitution itself was changed to implement the vision.

He noted that according to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO’s) definition, affirmative action must be of a temporary nature.

Solidarity would fight the prescriptive policy domestically first and take it to the Constitutional Court if necessary. It could then go to international areas like the UN and the ILO to fight its case. – Donwald Pressly

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