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EMPLOYMENT EQUITY

DA marches against ‘Race Quotas Act’, but critics say party misses the point

DA marches against ‘Race Quotas Act’, but critics say party misses the point
DA supporters in Cape Town gather in protest against the Employment Equity Amendment Act and the government’s newly drafted race-based water licensing rights regulations on 26 July,2023. (Photo: Ziyanda Duba)

While the DA says the new Employment Equity Amendment Act will cause a jobs bloodbath, critics believe the party either misread the law or is intentionally misrepresenting it.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Wednesday took to the streets of Cape Town in protest against the Employment Equity Amendment Act (EEAA) and the government’s newly drafted race-based water licensing rights regulations.

DA leader John Steenhuisen accused the ANC-led government of promoting racial division and demanded the complete scrapping of the EEAA’s provisions that give the minister of employment and labour the power to set what he called “racial quotas”.

Steenhuisen said the “Race Quotas Act” could cost up to 600,000 jobs and kill any hopes of increased investment or economic growth. He did not explain how he arrived at the figure.

da march equity

DA supporters in Cape Town gather in protest against the Employment Equity Amendment Act and the government’s newly drafted race-based water licensing rights regulations on 26 July,2023. (Photo: Ziyanda Duba)

“They introduce race quotas for access to water that will destroy the farms and the livelihoods of the farmers and farmworkers who feed all of us,” Steenhuisen said to a crowd of about 500 people.

“The Race Quota Act will completely ban the employment of coloured and Indian South Africans in certain provinces and sectors.

“It says, in black and white, that the quota for the employment of coloured people in the agricultural sector in Limpopo and Mpumalanga is 0.0%.” 

He said if the new laws were implemented, “You will soon see mafias going to private businesses and telling them which cadres to employ, while honest and hard-working South Africans of all backgrounds are pushed even deeper into suffering.

“These laws are designed to benefit one group, and one group only: ANC cadres.”

Steenhuisen suggested that the government should focus on alleviating poverty by implementing broader economic empowerment measures.

He cited Pick n Pay chairman Gareth Ackerman, who recently issued a dire warning to the government about the newly drafted EEAA.

Ackerman said by imposing quotes on employers of more than 50 people, the EEAA was a threat to private employers should they fail to employ a workforce mirroring racial demographics. He claimed it would make large numbers of qualified people unemployed and substitute them with unqualified people.

Targeting transformation

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the EEAA into law in April. It amends the Employment Equity Act of 1998 with new measures to promote diversity and equality in the workplace.

The EEAA requires employers with more than 50 employees to submit employment equity plans for their companies, spelling out how they will achieve national and provincial transformation targets for various industries.

In a statement, the Presidency said the EEAA “empowers the Minister of Employment and Labour to set employment-equity targets for economic sectors, as well as regions where transformation is lagging.

“The amendment Bill also empowers the Minister of Employment and Labour to regulate compliance criteria to issue Compliance Certificates as per Section 53 of the Employment Equity Act.”

The transformation targets set by the minister for different population groups (African, coloured, Indian and white) and genders must, where applicable, be proportional to the demographics of the relevant economically active populations.

The draft water licence regulations require farmers to have 25% to 75% black shareholding for their water licence applications to succeed. They were published for public comment by Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu on 19 May under the National Water Act.

‘Bill is forward-looking’

The ANC’s Western Cape economic opportunities, tourism and finance spokesperson, Nobulumko Nkondlo, said the employment equity amendments were a necessary tool to address racial, gender and disability injustice in SA’s labour market system, which was skewed towards white males, and had been slow to transform towards equitable access to opportunities of all the economically active population groups.

“The amendments and regulations further build on the judgment from the case of the Department of Correctional Services to ensure the regional and subregional classification of demographics, which in fact will benefit more the coloured employees given that this demographic is a majority in the Western Cape.”

She added that the DA had evaded its poor performance of fair and equitable employment representation in the Western Cape.

“The economic active population among coloured people in the Western Cape, especially among coloured women, is down today since they [the DA] came into power in the province in 2009. The annual report of the Provincial Treasury 2021/2022 shows [a] regression of the department and entities on its equity profile.”

Good party secretary-general and MP Brett Herron said the DA march appealed to those who believe inequality was acceptable.

“The Employment Equity Amendment Act seeks to entice businesses employing 50 people or more to set targets to address the persistent legacy of racial and disability bias in employment — especially in senior and top management roles,” Herron said.

“And although the act and regulations are not perfect, we need to start addressing these glaring inequalities in workspaces.”

Tessa Dooms, the director of programmes at the Rivonia Circle and a political analyst, said the DA either misunderstood the law or was intentionally misrepresenting it.

“What the bill is saying is in a geographical area, we know what the racial stats are. Just having employment equity as it means that you can have an area where the majority of people are black African, but they employ Indian people and meet the employment equity [targets].

“The difficulty with that is that it does not address many of the representation issues because it manipulates employment equity to favour one group or exclude the other.”

She said the EEAA brought a level of specificity.

“It is not asking for people to be fired; it is a forward-looking bill that says as you go forward and you create your management structures, you need to keep in mind that you are trying to redress across the spectrum of previously disadvantaged groups and that you cannot over-concentrate with one group over the other without taking into account the demographics of  the area.”

She said the DA’s position was strange and opportunistic.

Towards 2024

Steenhuisen linked the DA’s opposition to the EEAA and water licensing regulations to the 2024 general elections, and particularly the “Moonshot Pact” the DA is trying to establish with other opposition parties.

“Now is the time for a new movement, like the old [United Democratic Front], that includes political parties, civil society organisations, churches, sports clubs and businesses to rise up as one and sweep the ANC out of power,” the DA leader said.

“The Moonshot Pact is this movement we have been waiting for. The Moonshot Pact is the new UDF.

“While the ANC divides us, the DA is working to form a pact that unites us all as one.

Let’s be clear about one thing: next year, we must remove a rotten national government from power and elect a new DA national government.DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Is this biased article for real?

    At one time the biggest banana farmer in Limpopo was a “colored ” guy! Does he (or his family) get trashed?

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