President Cyril Ramaphosa. FILE PHOTO: Jonisayi Maromo/African News Agenchy (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG - Advancing black and female employees must be a cornerstone of any company’s operations, and this must move beyond merely ensuring compliance with laws, towards succession planning, mentoring, training and skills transfer, and giving workers a  stake in the firms they work for, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.

In a weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa bemoaned the fact that more than 25 years since the end of apartheid rule, the upper echelons of management in private companies were still dominated by white men, although they made up just five percent of the economically active population.

Africans only made up 15 percent of top management despite accounting for 79 percent of the economically active population, he noted.

He said since coming to power in 1994, his African National Congress had actively sought to drive transformation through affirmative action and broad-based black economic empowerment policies. 

"The significant progress that has been made in the public sector has not been matched by the private sector," the president said, pointing to report by the Commission for Employment Equity in August which showed, at best, poor adherence to employment equity legislation, and, at worst, outright disregard for the law. 

"Business needs to urgently do some serious introspection. Our transformative agenda cannot succeed unless we work together to broaden the participation of all South Africans in our economy, and it begins in the workplace," said Ramaphosa.

"We know too well what happened when race was used to exclude the majority of South Africans, and we must actively guard against the return of attitudes that presume the colour of one’s skin should confer either privilege or disadvantage," he added.

He said while the country had come a long way in terms of improving race relations, there were indications, be it in the internal dynamics of political parties, in the workplace, or outwardly expressed on the letter pages of newspapers, of a reluctance on the part of some to accept that "Africans, whites, Indians and coloureds all have an equal right to a seat at the table of our society".

"As a country, we should not allow ourselves to be led down this dark path," Ramaphosa warned.

"We have witnessed elsewhere in the world the consequences of narrow forms of nationalism based on race or ethnicity. It is not the society we want for ourselves or our children."

- African News Agency (ANA)