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Cosatu in the Western Cape has called for more than half of the white senior civil servants in the provincial government to be sacked – within just one year of the election.
“The sunset clauses in relation to jobs are gone, and so should continued white preference be gone,” Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich told the Cape Argus on Wednesday.
He explained that if the ANC won control of the provincial government in the coming election, this was what Cosatu would call on its alliance partner, the ANC, to implement.
“The most recent figures we have are that senior management at the provincial government is made up of at least 57 percent whites,” he said of the employment equity intervention.
Whites made up only about 16 percent of the population.
According to the 2011 census, the percentage of coloured people in the Western Cape dropped from 53.9 percent in 2001 to 49.6 percent in 2011, and the white population from 18.4 percent to 16 percent, while the black population increased from 26.7 percent to 33.4 percent.
“That means whites are over-represented in terms of the demographic of the Western Cape – so roughly half the whites in senior positions in provincial government would have to go,” Ehrenreich charged.
These whites “would need to vacate their positions for similarly educated blacks” – by which he meant coloureds, Africans and Indians.
“The claims by Premier (Helen) Zille that there are not qualified blacks is just the DA way of defending white jobs and white privilege and white control.
“Their employment would have to be terminated – and within a year. They’ll have to go and start their own businesses. They are better placed to start their own businesses because they have both the networks and the historical infrastructure to do this.”
Asked to explain, Ehrenreich said the latter were “part of the generational advantage of apartheid”. For example, “their parents are more likely to have the resources for security, to enable them to borrow money at the banks”.
And his plan would “benefit all”.
“It’s in all of our best interests. An economy in which income is more equitably distributed, and is more equal, shows higher levels of stability and economic growth. By this measure you immediately increase the levels of income into black households and communities.”
However, the ultimate objective must be to grow the whole economy, “so that everyone who wants a job has the dignity of being employed – black and white”.
The plan would “democratise unemployment” in the short term.
Zille said of Ehrenreich’s plan: “Tony is trying to divert attention from the fact that the ANC (which he represents in the City of Cape Town) is insisting on national demographics at senior management level.”
She then charged that Ehrenreich’s statistics were wrong.
“Currently, 62 percent of senior management in the Western Cape government comprise coloured, black and Indian, and 75 percent comprise individuals from all designated groups – the latter including white women. He will not succeed in his attempt to drive a wedge between white people on the one hand, and coloured, Indian and black people on the other.
“We will continue to pursue employment equity without quotas, which have been ruled unconstitutional in the Supreme Court of Appeal. This means we will broaden opportunities for all, give people a chance to gain work experience and training, and support people in their development to become competitive for top jobs. This is how we have reached the figures we already have, and managed to combine equity with excellence. It is the only approach that works,” Zille said.
Labour lawyer Michael Bagraim said Ehrenreich’s call was “not only reckless, but illegal”.
“The law is absolutely clear in that no business can retrench or dismiss for any reason in order to ensure that the equity targets are met.”
The call was “social engineering at its worst” and a form of “ethnic cleansing”.
“Clearly, Ehrenreich has no business experience, and the suggested management of the province would lead to anarchy. The statements made that white senior civil servants in the provincial government should be sacked must be seen as the rantings of a supremacist organisation.”
ANC provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile said of the call: “Senior white managers make up 72 percent, so when we take power we will ensure that the public service, especially the senior level, is representative of the provincial demographics.
“There are more than enough capable and qualified blacks and coloureds (to fill the positions).”
Asked whether the ANC would fire half the whites in government, he said: “Obviously there will have to be a transitional period. We are not into collapsing government – services have to continue to the people.
“So the essence of what Tony says I agree with. It’s the modality of how we do it which will have to be discussed.”