The grim racial stats behind the Dis-Chem furore

The grim racial stats behind the Dis-Chem furore

We can make like ostriches and hide our heads in the sand, but it will not take away the harsh impact of centuries of economic exclusion that led to the generational disadvantage of many black people.

Dear DM168 readers,

When the CEO of Dis-Chem, Ivan Saltzman, wrote his memo explaining that the retail pharmacy giant was falling short on transformation targets, particularly in management, and therefore the hiring of white staff would be paused unless a strong case for their employment was made, our country’s centuries-old race divide reared its vicious head with white folk threatening to boycott Dis-Chem and black folk saying it is about time that a business leader took transformation seriously.

In this week’s DM168 newspaper our astute Business Maverick writer Ray Mahlaka has cut through the hysteria and explained the data and upcoming stringent amendments to equity legislation that lies behind Saltzman’s memo. I urge as many of you as possible to read every word of Mahlaka’s balanced, fact-based journalism on an issue that could easily plunge us into the emotionally charged morass of racial polarisation that will further divide us, when what we need is more understanding, more working together for our common good in a country teetering precariously on the brink of dysfunction, because of corruption, incompetence, poor education, petty power squabbles, a lack of foresight and politicians trapped in a prison of ideas that reached their sell-by dates long before the 20th century waved goodbye.

There is a very interesting graph in the latest Commission for Employment Equity annual report  which shows the demographics of top management in companies across South Africa. Of all senior management, those classified white constituted 63.2%, black African 17%, Indian/Asian 10.9% and coloured 5.9%.

Now contrast this with the latest population demographics of South Africa by Stats SA. Out of a total population of 60.6 million, black Africans constitute 81%, coloureds 8.8%, whites 7.7% and Indian/Asian 2.6%. If you look at this in perspective without any emotive attachment to one’s so-called designated race, it is clear that South Africa is a very long way from becoming an equal opportunity society for all who live here.

The data show that despite the Employment Equity Act signed in 1998, whites hold a greater proportion of senior management positions relative to their percentage proportion of the population than their black African counterparts. For only 17% of the 81% black African population to have the skills, experience and knowledge to reach senior management positions and lead companies, is just plain nuts. Equally nutty is the converse, that the minority 7.7% of the population holds the key to 63.2% of the economic kingdom. Only in South Africa.

The data come from the reality that privilege is generational. By privilege, I mean the basics that I believe are every human’s right: access to quality primary, secondary and tertiary education, a stable home environment that includes a solid roof over one’s head and good nutrition. Parents who have jobs that enable them to grow, learn, use their potential and provide for their families – this is the basic foundation the majority of black South Africans in our country are still deprived of.

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White privilege has lasted longer than any other racial group’s privilege in this country. The Nats made sure of this since 1948, when the Union of South Africa excluded black people from any kind of opportunity to grow by restricting them to semi-skilled labour and through the 1913 Native Lands Act, which limited two-thirds of the country’s population (black people) at the time  to 7.5% of the land while whites, making up one-fifth of the population then, were given 92.5% of the land.

We can make like ostriches and hide our heads in the sand, but it will not take away the harsh impact of centuries of economic exclusion that led to the generational disadvantage of many  black people.

The ANC spent the past three decades trying but failing to tackle this generational disadvantage. Perhaps the enormity of the task was so overwhelming that the greedy and myopic members of the ANC who took over from the thinkers, planners, managers, social democrats and humanists in the party, thought it easier for them and their families and friends to beg, borrow and steal their way up the economic ladder rather than address the challenge of creating opportunities for the people. Whatever the reasons might be, after close to three decades since apartheid ended, we still have a problem. A problem that is not going to be solved by denying that racial inequality exists or shouting platitudes of Radical Economic Transformation while feeding at the trough.

I believe in the genetic science as confirmed by several scientists including the American Society of Human Genetics, the largest professional organisation of scientists in the field, that the very idea of “race” is a lie. As they note: “The science of genetics demonstrates that humans cannot be divided into biologically distinct subcategories”; and it “challenges the traditional concept of different races of humans as biologically separate and distinct. This is validated by many decades of research.” In other words, “race itself is a social construct”, with no biological basis.

Racial concepts such as black African, coloured, white, other coloured, Indian and Asian were constructed in South Africa for the benefit of the descendants of European settlers over the inhabitants they found when they arrived here and the slaves they captured to work for them. The whole system of land appropriation, exclusion and oppression was based on a falsehood. We are living with the aftermath of this falsehood of white superiority and black inferiority which is why addressing the damaging effects of centuries of racism, today, does matter.

We need our economy to grow so that no one loses a job, black or white. We need more black skilled and qualified people who can fill in senior management and leadership positions on merit and ability. We need those 63% of white business leaders to follow Ivan Saltzman’s lead and do something to open more space and development for black junior, middle and senior managers on their teams.

We need good ideas and actions to break the cycle of poverty in generations of black families. We need more financial assistance and educational support for more black learners to access quality tertiary education, be it in the much-needed trades or professions. We need to stop shouting about racism and reverse racism and accept the fact that unless we do something to overturn racial inequality, actually many somethings, South Africa will always be no country for our young.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the need for economic redress and ideas to tackle it. Write to me at [email protected] for your ideas to be published on our DM168 letters page.

Yours in defence of truth, fraternity and equality,


This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25. 


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • david clegg clegg says:

    Everything you say is true and I wish it were otherwise. But managerial success generally requires both education and experience and a mitigating factor must be that apartheid education left a void in the black community, of well and widely educated individuals (who could then benefit fully from experiene) in what is today the managerial and directorship age-group ((35 to 60?) we want to transform. ANC education has ensured a similar problem for the next 25 years or so and remedial programmes can only do so much (and sometimes are seen as demeaning).
    so while we rightly lament the dismal position we have at present, its not entirely the fault of the current white generation’s lack of willingness to support transformation.
    What is required is to get rid of the ANC, ensure professionalism in everything to do with education, from the ministry to the schools, to speak up (in government) for remedial programmes so that people needing them do not reject them, and to continue sensitising boards and HR managers to the need for change.

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      Couldn’t have said it better myself! In addition though, current BEE employment policies and requirements are not only racist but don’t deal with the fundamental problem, which is lack of education. Education ( and Birth Control ) together with scrapping BEE policies should be the starting point for a SA economic and political renewal. Now all we have to do is find the right government to do it!

      • Running Man says:

        @Jane Crankshaw heads up—I think when you talk about birth control you probably mean that the the govt should be helping women (and families) have better access to family planning, which includes easy access to methods of birth control as well as abortion services.

        To cry “But birth control!” can smack of the old “they just multiply” trope. 😉

      • Steve Stevens says:

        Jane, imagine you have three kids. By sheer misfortune you’re retrenched and cannot find another job. Should you have practiced birth control and ‘limited’ yourself to one kid to cover any future unforeseen life events? Your argument applies equally to the public and private sectors btw…why should (intentionally or otherwise) childless couples pay a portion of their medical aid to cover the maternity benefits enjoyed by those with one, two, three, four kids?

    • Johan says:

      I remember the rally cry from the struggle: “Liberation before education.” This way of thinking seems to persist still today. Where would we have been if the cry was “Liberation through education”?

    • Roy Gordon says:

      Hi David,
      Erudite as always!

    • sue fry says:

      ‘apartheid education left a void in the black community, of well and widely educated individuals (who could then benefit fully from experiene) in what is today the managerial and directorship age-group ((35 to 60?)’
      Whatever the failings of our current government, this legacy of apartheid continues to haunt us. And it’s being prepetuated, in the inferior education still supplied to the majority of our children. Thank you for raising it

  • Cecilia Wedgwood says:

    Check the number of actual pharmacists in Clicks or Dischem. I do not know the legal requirement but often there is no Pharmacist on duty – just a pharmacist assistant. I enquired if there was a programme for a pharmacist assistant to upgrade to a pharmacist— No. Why no day release or night school programmes?

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    I agree with you that the whole narrative about “race” is a lie. But it is not really about race; the word “race” is actually an euphemism for culture, and the social engineering of the apartheid system created these different cultures that were called “races” according to how that system worked.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    . . . Regarding the fact that SA is still far from being an equal opportunity society, undoubtedly the policies of the ANC contributes as much to it as it contributes to the opposite, and where it is not policy, the behaviour of the ANC cadres that are put into crucial positions by the ANC causes it. Probably the most important factor preventing equality is the unequal quality of education that children get – this is not only because of a tendency over the last 2 decades of schools in African areas to give inferior quality education, but I also get a distinct impression that a large percentage of the parents in the African and brown communities are not involved in the education of their children. This is an important factor in how knowledgable the children will be when they are adults, and thus what their potential to reach leadership positions in business and other sectors will be. This is likely to change only after their parents were given equal quality education, which means that it is unlikely to change in the next three decades. But then, I don’t think it is possible to get these changes to happen by trying to force it through; that has probably been the biggest sin of the ANC government. If they had rather influenced the tendencies more subtly by giving tax cuts according to how transformed a company are, we would have been further along the line anyway.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    . . . There is also a school of thought alleging that the ANC cadres that are employed are not really motivated to change this, because the ANC propaganda actually relies to a large extent on the emotions created by the inequality. It shows in the fact that, after 28 years of being in power, some African areas still does not have potable water, and the schools with low quality education and exam results are almost completely in African areas. If the ANC is really so serious with eradicating inequality, how is it possible that they are letting this still happen? I think that these shortcomings are playing a bigger role in the shrinking of the ANC support base than the bad service delivery in their municipalities for instance.

  • Colin Louw says:

    I can’t remember who it was who said “there are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics” but this is so relevant to this whole issue of “transformation” which certain groups keep thumping the table about. Without doubt there is a huge disparity in the demographics of management both intermediate and senior in every company. But looking at colour and then mindlessly screaming about the disparity reveals a regrettable lack of common sense as well.
    That the root of all evil in this case is a combination of education and experience cannot be brushed aside. Unfortunately the current bunch running the country have managed to totally screw up the education part and instead of upping the number of educated previously disadvantaged folk (PDF) with better education levels and higher qualification levels they managed to dumb down the output to the degree where most PDF matriculants coming out of the public school system (leaving out the private and model C schools) quite frankly cannot be employed in anything above really basic job levels. The writer moans for more opportunity to create space for development for PDF groups implying that this can overcome an intrinsic lack of education and even more impossibly somehow fast track an experience curve. Those senior white managers did not fall into those roles straight out of school – they worked their way up in most cases getting the edges knocked off and the brains filled with experience which is knowledge obtained by doing it.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      Absolutely. This tiring decade old discussion should transform into a solution. But its not going to happen under the ANC. If we could just stop stealing and actually care about education, in 2054 we could be a winning nation. Its sad it cant be in 2022.

    • William Stucke says:

      I’m not surprised that you can’t remember who said “there are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics”. There is some significant controversy on the subject, and it appears that the phrase may have originated as “liars, damned liars and expert witnesses”. Nevertheless, Sir Charles Dilke is attributed by an author from the University of York’s Maths Department in 1891. (It seems that I’m not allowed to post a link)

      On your assertion that the root of all evil in this subject is a combination of education and experience, I agree. It seems extraordinary that the ANC, in power for 28 years, _still_ provides such exceptionally poor quality of education to the majority of our population. There is absolutely no excuse for this whatsoever. Our per capita expenditure on education is considerably higher than many countries with vastly better outcomes.

  • Running Man says:

    It’s true—privilege (white or other) is generational.

    What I don’t think is true is that “the ANC spent the past three decades trying but failing to tackle this generational disadvantage.”

    Rather, it seems to me they were never truly interested in using their political power to solve hard problems. The legislation on the books currently is the minimum any govt would do. When it failed to start to create generational opportunities for those excluded, those in power sat on their hands, except when they stood up to steal the money.

    Thirty years is a long time to have all the power in a small country like ours. Let’s not forget that during this entire time the ANC could have created any kind of programme(s) that would begin to do more for our non-white brothers and sisters.

    They could have tried, failed, tried something else, failed again…I mean, 30 years is a long time to try to get it right.

    • virginia crawford says:

      I agree: schools are in a dire state after 28 years – that’s 2 generations of kids emerging largely ill-equipped to enter the modern world of work. It’s tragic.

    • Running Man says:

      Honestly it doesn’t seem that hard when you have all the power and control the funds.

      If they only thing they did was create and fund “magnet” schools in every urban area. . .pay for a mix of local and international educators. . .use a lottery system to enroll learners. . .then stack the deck to resource these previously disadvantaged learners to the hilt. . and then fund these schools to the level of the old Model C schools, then over the last 20+ years they would have already graduated thousands of well-prepared young adults.

      And they wouldn’t even have to fight other political parties about since they (still) have a controlling majority in govt.

      /end rant/

  • Joe Trainor Trainor says:

    We all fully understand the terrible injustices of the past that have led to the current over-representation of white people in management in SA. And we all want to change things. But setting race targets is not the solution. Just look at what this has done to Eskom and the other state-owned disasters. Whatever the solution is, its going to take a lot longer than 24 years. I think what Mr Saltzman needs to realise is that white people are not South Africa’s enemy. The real enemy right now is the ANC government. Its corrupt and incompetent leadership is bringing SA to its knees. The stricter EE policies that the ANC wants to implement are just another facet of its desperate attempts to stay in power. By passing laws that are populist instead of sensible. Many large companies in SA have to pay fines because they don’t meet EE transformation targets. The sensible and principled thing to do is to keep paying those fines. And in so doing show the ANC the same middle finger that it shows us.

  • louis viljee says:

    I’d love to read the Ray Mahlaka article but the link is not working and I’ve been unable to find it otherwise….
    Meanwhile, the responses here appears sadly to reflect the deepening of racial reaction rather than attempting to remove this thorn from our society.

  • Malcolm McManus says:

    I think that if w could go back to 1994 and the ANC government could have spent as much money on quality education as they did stealing it, we probably would not be having this conversation. But the stealing cycle will continue and if we don’t blow ourselves up, we will still be blaming colonialism for the troubles of Africans in the year 3000.

  • Gerhardt Strydom says:

    Heather, when you look at a particular challenge, whether it be education, ability, experience, standard of governance and tax revenue collection – you have to consider the framework within which it exists. To have a productive workforce you need an efficient education system, to have an efficient education system, you need an efficient government – which we don’t have. You also need young people with ambition and drive. Much of the youngsters today want things quick and easy – education, income, jobs, skills, cars, houses, land. There are two things you can do on land: 1. Build houses 2. Farm. Both of these require funding and skills. So if we hand every citizen a 5000 square metre piece of land …. what will happen on that soil? And if you use the land to build a house, how far will you be from the city centres where the jobs are? Do you have transport to commute? Who will pay for water and electricity on your ‘new land’? As long as we hand out BBBEE jobs, we are saying, indirectly, here you go, on merit you would not get this job, but “give it a go, old chap, all the best now”. Many farmers are willing to mentor young and upcoming candidates … but is the government supporting that? Unless we have a proper, clean government, solutions for this country, and for the masses, are not forthcoming. Perhaps all must perish for the Phoenix to rise and a new, remoulded reality to form. Realistically, our country is broken. How close to ground zero do we need to regress to?

  • John Georgiou says:

    It’s been 27 years since the ANC took over and they’ve spent the past 27 years making a complete mess of everything, then resort to legislation to force the people who feed them to take the blame for their incompetence. You want the management environment to mirror the demographics of the country ? As a simple man I can see some simple things that would do it , but clearly the ANC hasn’t realized it yet. Grow the economy, forget about those intransigent labour policies, give kids a decent education with subjects that actually add value (forget about worthless subjects and 30% pass marks), hire teachers based on ability to teach said kids and you will soon have a generation of kids that can add value to the economy and some of which will ultimately go into senior positions. Stop trying to manage every aspect of the economy (It’s evident to everyone but yourselves that you’re incompetent). Forcing companies who are paying the taxes you’re so greedily gobbling to hire someone based on skin colour instead of skill yet again demonstrates how clueless they really are.
    South Africa must be the only country that has laws in place to “protect” the minority from the majority. The ANC had the opportunity to make a real difference, but feeding at the trough was clearly more important. Forcing educated skilled people out of the economy to make way for people who didn’t get a good education and are thus less skilled isn’t going to make SA a success story. Maybe that’s the intention…

  • Paul T says:

    The problem is quite obvious. To mandate a change in management level without having a pool of competent educated aspirant managers who have grown through experience will increase the salary gap between managers and their staff and lead to poorer performance. We need to increase the supply of those black managers to meet the demand generated by recognition of the importance of workplace diversity, BEE and organic demand for good skills. This work begins in early childhood education, preschool, and needs to be sustained through a quality school education. A surplus of skilled people means more competition for managerial jobs, a lowering of the wage gap and better performance. This also provides fertile ground for spawning and growing new businesses that will create more employment opportunities.

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    When the Nats came to power in 1948, they set about uplifting their own people, not just the ruling elite. They sorted out their education in Afrikaans schools and universities. They built dams for the farmers. They developed the existing road and rail network that led to the formidable economic powerhouse in Africa that was South Africa. They took South Africa private from British control, built our own currency and reserve bank, created Afrikaner centred businesses outside the mining sector that was essentially British controlled.

    Yes, they excluded black people from economic participation, and tried for 40 years to force them into labour pools in the homelands. But in that 40 years, despite the irrational cost drain on the economy of the homelands policy, this country moved forward economically. We became and in many instances still are (although rapidly waning) a medical centre of excellence, leaders in fuel from coal technology, leaders in mining and extraction technology, an African bread basket etc etc.

    The only thing the ANC is doing that could be remotely similar is excluding whites to make way for blacks in the workplace. Other than that, I see no infrastructural advance (au contraire, a regression in fact), no improvement in black education (and in fact a regression for previously “white” universities), the collapse of SAA (Africa’s first airline, second in the world), Transnet, Eskom etc etc. No progress, just regression. And whites are to blame.

  • Ian Gwilt says:

    Education is key to change or address the generational disadvantage
    On that the govt has failed spectacularly
    Look at the state of township/rural schools
    It is a long haul, but we have already been on the road for a long time.

  • Nos Feratu says:

    The only way to select a manager is on his/her ability. The ANC have ensured (with their education system) that the vast majority of their people do not have the background to develop this ability. If the education was corrected today it would take another 20 years for the results to flow through. In the meantime this social engineering is destroying people, hindering progress and damaging our economy.

  • Marcela Reynoso says:

    Educación, educación…educación
    I came to South Africa in 1989, I was hired because at that time local young architects were lacking of a strong technical knowledge
    They were good designers
    One of my concerns at that time, was apartheid, an evil concept all around the world
    Our (my late husband and myself) employers told us that things were changing and gave us the options of a 6 month contract with a return ticket
    We were running away from hiperinflación, I used to have 2 jobs to get to the end of the month and it wasn’t certain.
    I experienced love at first sight, just during our ride to Yeoville
    You may not be interested on my personal life, but I’ll follow soon with with my shock regarding education
    I was passing by certain schools in the white areas and my eyes could not believe it, swimming pools, sports fields… wow
    I’m my country our schools have patios that will share class breaks and physical activities
    You must go to very privileged private schools to have the facilities that those, now called model C, had
    In my country, education is free from the beginning of the 20s century, I’ve got my degree thanks to free education and it was of high reputation
    But we had 3 shifts, morning, afternoon and evening, I used to do evening to work during the day
    Primary and secondary schools had also 2 or sometimes 3 shifts
    Meaning that the same building will provide 2 or 3 times its capacity for education

    • Marcela Reynoso says:

      Well, I can follow now, my comment was approved. But I must be careful, I never realize that I could write 1500 carácter in English
      1994 was like magic, people was hopeful, Mandela was talking about free and quality education for all South Africans, budgets for education were promising but when I look back, nothing had changed
      Rural schools, to me, the most important area of education are not better than on the times of Bantu education, townships schools are equally disregarded
      School curricula is reduced to basic to achieve performance (30% pass)
      I would not like to offend anyone, but to me that home language education is just a label to make happy all the different groups that we have in South Africa
      Coming from South America, I can tell you that the best thing in the continent is that most of the population speaks Spanish, except Brazil that speaks Portuñol
      My country used to be on the top of literacy in South America and I’m sure in other continents (today is easily comparable with South Africa)
      I’m not an expert in education, but I can see is that our educational advisors are looking at the wrong models
      Please, don’t look at 1st or 2nd world countrys, this is 3rd world
      Unify language, Zulu, Xhosa, I don’t mind (better English if you want a fluent pass through university) and demand capable, committed qualified teachers for each and every posts
      I hope that my words can be useful to someone involved in education.

  • Daniel Cohen says:

    The sooner this whole issue becomes deracialised and gets seen as a poverty and socio-economic problem the sooner we will start to make progress in addressing the imbalances. Reverse job reservation is not going to solve the problem. This is not aimed at denying the major rôle of small and grand apartheid in causing the problem. The majority of our population needs better schooling, nutrition etc to start levelling the playing fields, being CSVs of a functional state the current government has so badly mismanaged since the dawn of democracy.

  • Dewald Lemmer says:

    As with most arguments, there are many lenses that apply here.

    An unjust system resulted in the 1994 statistics. During transition, I was an excited 33 year old willing to sacrifice (which my generation did to pay for agreements to retire an old regime and to fund the ‘grab’, to make up for lost time, of a new one) financially under visionary leadership, to ensure a stable future for my children. Today I am a disillusioned 61 year old who has retreated into a ‘laager’ once more.

    So what has changed? I have witnessed wastage, poor leadership, inability to think ‘win-win’, corruption and lack of basic project management. This has left me with with a depleted soul and oscillating emotions.

    Why has the proportionally huge investment in education not paid off? Why is education teetering on the brink of total collapse? Why are young Zimbabwean professionals that I have worked with superior to their South-African counterparts? This despite economic hardship and a collapsed state.

    Back to the topic at hand. Do we have the candidates to ‘feed’ the required statistics? Probably not. Do we have the combined reserves in the private sector to fund a learning process with associated cost, to force progression? No. The SOE’s burden is lurking and is yet to be applied.

    We need a ‘Martin Luther King’ that can revolutionise our thinking and share a ‘dream’ we can all buy into. Not another ‘lame duck’.
    We need someone to unite ALL around, “we can”!

    We can’t afford forced targets.

    • Two Wrongs Aint No Right says:

      BEE is more like a shallow tit-for-tat game. By only focusing on the number of black people employed in a company, you can say it is shallow because it leads to badly skilled people being promoted too quickly into positions that they are not able to really perform in. I know of many companies that are forced to outsource contractors to work alongside their permanent staff in order to get the job done.

      Education should have been the priority so that more qualified people could have been fed into the BEE system, but the government has made it extremely difficult for foreign teachers to work in the country. They could have hired the best teachers as a number one priority.

      If BEE is too restrictive to all population groups, it will not be supported by all population groups and spenders might be able to make an impact on a business by boycotting it.

      So the bottom line is that BEE cannot only be pushed in from the top, it will have significant negative side effects.

  • Hello There says:

    You need to contemplate the current situation to its logical end: given the dire state of education and the government’s inability to foster an environment that stimulates economic growth, it’s untenable for any member of a minority, specifically whites, to be economically active in any shape or form.
    If you are in a position of economic productivity, you are either compromising the necessary ratio or keeping a previously disadvantaged person from being in that position through some other means (your white privilege).
    As long as the economy is where it is, the problem prevails. You will be be penalized by the state for it.
    If you take your own argument to logical conclusion, you need to step aside. Minorities cannot remain in the employ anywhere until the majority of the population who can work is employed. Given the increasingly punitive environment (by a government that is largely to blame for the overall situation), the situation for minority members who want to be economically productive is going to be increasingly untenable…

  • Karl Sittlinger says:

    “the ANC spent the past three decades trying but failing to tackle this generational disadvantage”
    No they didn’t. The spent 27 years stealing everything they could. Puposefully. There was a concerted effort to weaken state institutions that in any way could lead to accountability. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the current state of education for the ANCs primary voter base was purposefully neglected.
    I don’t think any race based policies or decisions can help to bring this country forward, nor will it in any way solve almost any of the problems this country is currently facing. The forced exodus of skilled resources based purely on skin color at ESKOM is a typical example of where these policies can lead to.
    “We need to stop shouting about racism and reverse racism and accept the fact that unless we do something to overturn racial inequality, actually many somethings, South Africa will always be no country for our young.”
    How gladly many would like to do exactly just that. But the idea that this country should only be for the young of a certain race is complete madness and yet that is exactly what is happening.
    We need to stop looking at race as the only qualifier for this discussion, and need to acknowledge that policies based on actual status and opportunity of each undividual no matter the race would help all South Africans. That is of course if we want to make life better for everyone in this country and not just for a small number of connected cadres.

  • John Strydom says:

    The situation is indeed shocking, and more can’t be added to the many obvious suggestions offered by the commentators here.
    There is, however, in the quota solution a fatal flaw: equal opportunities are not the same as equal outcomes.
    We cannot want to jump over the education and training which have to PRECEDE equal outcomes.
    The quota system which leads to poorly qualified people appointed over more qualified people on the basis of any characteristic – race, disability, or whatever which has nothing to do with the job – is simply magical thinking.
    Go to any government office to confirm this.

  • Allan Wolman Wolman says:

    The common thread in all these comments is EDUCATION! After 30 years that the country still has over 3000 schools with pit latrines and just as many without running water while the ANC votes over R3bn for VIP security must speak volumes for the contempt the ANC holds for its people. That a former govt. Minister drives around in her Aston Martin and those teachers in rural schools will strike or sit in their well-appointed staff rooms filled with free tea and biscuits instead of teaching their pupils, must speak volumes. The ANC should hang their collective heads in shame!

  • Delia Jordaan says:

    Dear Heather

    I really don’t think you are being honest here about the real problems and this Dischem thing is just a side show to the real problems in SA. Mahlaka’s article states 86% of Dischem employees are black while according to you 81% of SA population is black. I understand that on management level blacks are severely under represented, but let’s be honest, what % of Dischem’s employees are in management positions.

    What does the graphs look like of the biggest employer in this country, the South African Goverment. How many minorities are employed at management level in government departments. I’m going to guess, very very few. And lower down even less.

    But this is not my point, and it shouldn’t be yours either. This whole Dischem thing is being used as a deflection from the real problems in this country. When last have you looked at our manufacturing figures. Factories around the country are closing at an alarming rate because there is no reliable power to manufacture stuff. Go calculate how many people are losing their jobs because of the energy crisis that is Eskom. Soon there will be no Dischem if we keep getting distracted by things pushed out there to divide us. A few more black managers in Dischem is not going to solve the hunger crises in the Eastern Cape, it’s not going to improve access to health care, it’s not going to rescue our crumbling water infrastructure. 30 years of social engineering through legislation has failed, time for a new plan.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    Raw statistics need to be interpreted very carefully. Fact number one – black statistics reveal a very bottom-heavy mass, with the median age being around 17. Think this through carefully – more than half black people are still at the studying phase of life.

    Now ponder on the white statistics, and in particular the startling statistic that, for most professions – a very disturbing preponderance are at, or near retirement.

    So whilst blacks are likely to be young, yet to acquire tertiary education, experience or skills, whites are at the other end of the scale, at or nearing retirement, highly experienced, qualified and skilled.

    Now which set of characteristics best fits the needs of a pharmacy?

    The questions that ought to be disturbing us are twofold – where the hell are we going to get the surgeons, specialists and other skills required in the healthcare field (and the same is true for accountants, engineers, lawyers etc) and how the hell are we going to find employment opportunities for the tsunami-like wave of sadly, preponderously under-skilled young black peoples that are going to hit the job market over the coming decades.

    What I do know is that we will at the very least need strong, well led organisations and structures to even stand a chance – they are not going to be many who are the self-starters and entrepreneurs who can stride out on their own.

    This is what ought to be keeping the ANC up at night, not worrying about the basically irrelevant which, in any event, the passing of time is resolving – and our economy will be in much worse shape when the ageing white population do retire.

  • talfrynharris says:

    Does it make sense to state, correctly, that race is a social construct without scientific validity but at the same time imply that transformation should be measured by statistics based on those same “false” apartheid categories? Since South African democracy “transformation” and BEE have been Trojan horses for advancing the interests of a narrow elite, and deploying cadres. Thus many South Africans have lost confidence in BBBEE and employment equity. To address historically injustice would it not make more sense to measure generational advancement rather than continue to promote Apartheid categories? Why not favour people on the basis of the lower economic status of their parents and grandparents rather than their race?
    The other factor to consider is that civil service, SOE’s and corporates have a role to play beyond just addressing historical injustice. They still have to supply services, water, electricity etc. Generational disadvantage not only means that catching up economically takes time, in terms of competence. Addressing historical disadvantage has to be pursued at a pace that does not compromise keeping SA productive and functional (e.g. ESKOM). In my observation the corporate leaders that are best advancing useful transformation are not those that are denying opportunities to certain South Africans, or appointing incompetent people. It is those that started mentoring talent twenty years ago. Nevertheless its not too late for a fair and balanced approach.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    Racial quotas will make it worse. The reality is that, like sport, business will pick the winners, the ones with the best cv’s with experience and education. There is no doubt that black people have the same capacity and potential as any other race, but you cannot force this change with legislation and prejuduce. There is no shortcut. And the ANC has wasted 24 years flogging their dead racehorse. You’re right on one level – this needs to he approached with fresh ideas. And Nxesi is not going to be the one coming up with it. This is just another distraction technique, a detour around the failures of a useless government.

  • Jos Verschoor says:

    Dis-chem, well done!

  • Johan Buys says:

    Why is it that the private sector must try and fix the past? This government has arguably worsened the class divide through its education and training. And a class divide is what it was, not a race divide. Young rich non-white kids born since 1990, armed with a private school education and university qualification are highly sought after. The articles tend to infer a malice to the situation : the companies prefer hiring whites. I have to disagree. You would have to be really really dumb business owner if you employ whites because they are white rather than the best person you can find. Anyway, we have serious problems as a race-obsessed nation.

  • Matsobane Monama says:

    Thank you Heather for telling it like it is. The ANC is corrupt and incompetent period. Does this exonerate White people from the current state our country? answer NO. Stellenbosch Prof. Tereblanche in his book Lost in Transformation said by the time 1994 came SA problems were entrenched and unsolvable. If you look at most of the comments, except Virginia Crawford it’s the mindset of same people day in day out, u can’t change them. Virginia’s comments are short spot on and understanding of how world works. The assumption here is that there are no educated capable Africans, well i am graduate of Wits. Dis-Chem must continue with the good work of building this nation.

  • Steve Stevens says:

    I agree – education and workplace training are key.

    New Zealand’s proposed smoking ban is a useful template for our EE approach. It recognises that older smokers are unlikely to quit overnight and will be applied annually such that in year 1 it is imposed on 18yr olds, year 2 on 18 and 19yr olds and so on until reaching critical mass.

    Granted, everyone is concerned that EE will populate private enterprises with the self same corrupt, clueless, economically illiterate incompetents that run our public services. Too late, they’re already there and always have been. It’s standard corporate – managers parachuted in, clueless as to real hands-on work, corruptly colluding to create little fiefdoms and shirking responsibility for eye-watering overspends.

    What KIND of education are we proposing? A poster here is adamant about the ‘right’ education ie. STEM subjects as opposed to ‘woke’ art, music etc. A rounded education provides the transferable skills needed in an economy that no longer guarantees jobs for life. Why shouldn’t a mine worker have a side-hustle as a musician to supplement his income?

    What about some ‘EQ’ alongside ‘IQ’ to recast outdated, damaging patriarchal customs where Black youths think nothing of raping women at a photo shoot or where pissing all over someone’s desk is excused away as a White student’s alcoholic ‘rite of passage’ and where even experienced and educated CEOs demonstrate a complete lack of empathy and tact when drafting memos.

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