Employment equity lagging in SA

South African companies are like Irish coffee—white on top and black at the bottom—said Jimmy Manyi, commissioner of the Employment Equity Commission on Saturday.

“There is the white part on top and a mass of black at the bottom, with a sprinkling of black right on top,” Myani said.

Speaking at the University of Stellenbosch’s monthly Leader’s Angle lecture on Saturday, Myani used the analogy to explain the lack of employment equity at the top, senior and professional management levels in South African companies, as shown by the latest equity figures.

Myani, who is also the president of the Black Management Forum (BMF), suggested that the Minister of Labour, Membathisi Mdladlana, should issue fines to companies not complying with employment equity.

He said fines would allow for remedial action, and force companies to comply with employment equity.

“We can conclude that the management of the economy is still being controlled by whites ... even if you look at black executives, there is nothing that you can conclude with them because they will tell you: ‘I will get back to you’,” he said.

The distribution of the economically active population (EAP) in which South Africans between the ages of 15 and 65-years-old are able to work—is measured as a percentage in terms of race, gender and disability.

The employment-equity report evaluates companies according to how well each population group (black, white, Indian, male, female and people with disabilities) is represented and whether the representation of each group in companies is in line with the EAP percentage.

The EAP for black South Africans is 87,2% (46,9% male and 40,3%) and for white South Africans is 12,8% (7,3% male and 5,5%).

“On the issue of white women, the commission is asking; ‘Have we, or have we not met the policy objective of seeking equitable representation of this designated group?’

“The EAP of white women is 5,5%, but they occupy 14,7% of all top management positions, 19% of all senior management positions and a further 22,1% of all professionally qualified and middle management positions,” said Manyi.

“What precedent do we set by allowing one group to surpass its EAP more than three times? What if we reached 80% of EAP for blacks and simply continued to increase this percentage?” he asked.

He said coloured people should challenge their employers in terms of their EAP and representation in the workplace.

On the issue of whether young whites should be excluded or included under employment equity, Manyi said young whites were still more privileged than other youths because their parents benefited from apartheid.

“For instance, white parents are able to make loans for their kids to study further.”

Manyi said there was even a racial element in the employment of people with disabilities.

“While the representation of disabled people in the workplace has decreased generally, it is still white handicapped males who are being favoured for appointments.”

He said employment equity was not reverse racism.

“This may have been the case if blacks were represented at the rate of 80% in companies and the Act continued to favour them over others.

“Being black is not good enough. There is a serious problem with white gatekeepers at companies who do not see the merit in blacks.

People only see merit in people who look like them,” said Manyi. - Sapa

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