It is intriguing — and difficult — to predict which issues will seize the media’s imagination. It is often even more surprising to see which issues are neglected or ignored.
Two weeks ago — before the Oscar Trial began — Western Cape papers were full of the controversy about Cape Town’s new logo. As the Cape Argus noted at the time, “thousands of Capetonians discovered for the first time that their city [had] a logo” — only when a “new one” was leaked on social media. [For the record, the design cost involved was R314,000 — not the R8-million that was widely reported. And the logo will be phased in during the normal course of maintenance and printing, requiring no additional budget.]
At the same time a genuinely significant story was breaking behind the scenes. It went almost unnoticed despite the fact that it will have a devastating impact on the lives of the majority of residents of the province for decades to come. And the same applies in the Northern Cape and KwaZulu Natal. The whole of South Africa, in fact.
When historians look back, they will identify this almost unnoticed development as the moment when Verwoerdian racial engineering returned to South Africa, with a vengeance, as official government policy in a democratic South Africa.
The “story” I am referring to are the regulations, issued at the end of February by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, in terms of the Employment Equity Amendment Act.
These regulations require that companies that employ more than 150 people use the demographics of the “national economically active population” to fill positions in the three upper levels (top and senior management and professionally qualified) and an average of national and regional demographics for the three lower levels (skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled technical) when determining employment equity targets.
This means that, although coloured people in the Western Cape make up 49% of the population, they may only comprise 9% of professional and senior staff levels in any enterprise or institution. And the same applies to the Northern Cape, where coloured people constitute 40% of the population.
In KZN, where Indians make up 7% of the demographic profile, they should not be represented in a proportion of more than 2,5% in the top three levels of any enterprise.
Doing a calculation for the Western Cape government, I concluded that no coloured person in our administration would be able to get a promotion into management for the next 15 years (at least). Neither would the Western Cape government be able to appoint any coloured or white professionals. And we would have to appoint at least 22 “demographically representative” senior employees before we could appoint the first Indian.
These regulations deliver the following message to hard-working, qualified, committed people who happen not to be black Africans: No matter how hard you work, no matter how much value you add, you are doomed by your colour. You cannot rise above a certain level because of your race. Demography is Destiny.
Verwoerd must be dancing with delight in his grave. And the Verwoerdian of the “new” South Africa, Jimmy Manyi, has been vindicated in his insistence that “there is an over-concentration of coloured people in the Western Cape”. Speaking in a television interview in his capacity as government spokesman in 2011, he advised coloured people to move elsewhere if they wanted career opportunities.
Trevor Manuel, Minister in the Presidency at the time, called Manyi a “worst order racist” whose views did not reflect government policy.
But Manyi protested: “I only articulate the government’s view”.
These regulations show that Manyi was right. Manuel has now taken leave of politics. And Manyi has just secured a prestigious appointment as Parliament’s representative on the Media Development and Diversity Agency, no less.
We can now expect him to promote the policies of “worst order racism” in the media space. And he will refer to these regulations to show that he is merely articulating the view of a government that has come to represent “worst order” racists.
Apologists for the new regulations will be quick to point out that they have been issued “as a guide”. But we know that the guide will become the rule in ANC-governed provinces, which need no encouragement to extend the “cadre deployment policy” for politically-connected individuals. Now they can tighten their control behind the convenient smokescreen of complying with government regulations.
They have already shown that they are determined to do so. We remember the landmark court challenge of police officer Jemilla Pillay, brought on her behalf by the trade union, Solidarity, after she was told that she did not qualify for a promotion because of her race and her gender.
In a classic explanation of how state institutions apply “employment equity” the SAPS explained in court how they calculate the race and gender allocation of positions:
“19 positions on level 14 are multiplied by the national demographic figure for a specific race group eg 19 positions x 79% Africans = 15 of the 19 posts must be filled by Africans, then 15 x 70% = 11 positions to be filled by African males minus the current status of seven meaning there is a shortage of four African males.
 For Indian females the calculation is 19 x 2, 5% = 0, 5 positions to be filled by Indians, then 0, 5 x 30% = 0, 1 Indian females and that is rounded off to zero. Of the five available positions 0,125 could go to Indians x 30% gender allocation means 0.037 could be allocated to Indian females and that is rounded to zero.
 Indian females on level 14 were ideal because there was none and the ideal was zero. There was one Indian male on level 14 but there ought to be none, whether male or female as the ideal for Gauteng was zero and no Indian could be appointed.”
The Supreme Court of Appeal ruled this approach unconstitutional. But instead of accepting the court’s ruling, SAPS has appealed against it, showing how determined the national government is to enforce rigid racial quotas. The latest regulations merely underscore this determination.
But what about the Western Cape where the DA governs? We will continue to implement rational employment equity policies, but we will certainly oppose racial quotas in every way possible. We will continue ensuring that every hard-working, dedicated and qualified individual has a fair chance to build their career. And we will continue pursuing effective and fair employment equity to redress the wrongs of the past. But we will have nothing to do with the lunacy revealed in the SAPS case and reinforced by the new regulations.
But, as with all things in government, it is not so simple.
Firstly, the law states that every employer of 50 or more people MUST implement affirmative action measures to achieve “equitable representation in all occupational levels in the workforce”. The regulations show how the national government will measure “equitable representation” — on the basis of national demographics, irrespective of regional population ratios. And they will do the calculation, just like the SAPS, on the basis of quotas.
Any employer of more than 50 people MUST draw up a plan designed to achieve “equitable representation” within a time frame. And an employer MUST report annually on progress towards achieving the targets set. And the employer MUST assign one or more senior managers to ensure implementation and monitoring of the employment equity plan and MUST make available the necessary resources for this purpose. The employer will then be subjected to scrutiny and monitoring of labour unions, of labour inspectors and a review from the Director General to make sure they are complying with the Act. If they are found wanting, the Labour Court can make “any appropriate orders, award compensation of impose fines”.
And perhaps most coercive of all, if any company wishes to qualify to do business with any organ of state they will have to seek a certificate from the Minister confirming their compliance with the Act.
In this way, what is innocently presented as a “guideline” very soon becomes a quota. It will certainly be interpreted as such for the purposes of accessing government business. Another fine fig-leaf for ensuring that tenders and contracts go to the politically connected.
This once again reflects the gross contradiction between what Jacob Zuma’s ANC says — and what it does.
At a time of growing unemployment and poverty, nothing could be more calculated to kill economic growth and jobs than this law, and particularly the new draft regulations issued by the Minister. The ANC has been particularly devious in seeking to disguise its intention in the principal Act, while sneaking its Verwoerdian ambitions into the regulations. If anything has vindicated my insistence that the DA withdraw its support for the principal Act, it is these horrific regulations.
So, to quote a famous phrase: What is to be done?
The Constitutional Court hearing in the Jemilla Naidoo case on Thursday will be pivotal, and far more important to SA’s future than the Oscar Pistorius trial.
It will give clear direction on the highest Court’s interpretation of the Constitution in relation to “employment equity”.
The Western Cape government has sought Senior Counsel opinion on these regulations, and we will resist their imposition, till the highest court if necessary.
In the DA we will continue to expose the decline of a once honourable organisation into a racist oligarchy, whose leaders prey on the poor to feed themselves.
Voters will one day confront this reality. Let’s hope enough of them do by 7 May.