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Parliamentary debate requested on affirmative action policy

Published Aug 6, 2013

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Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder has asked for an urgent parliamentary debate on affirmative action. According to a statement released by Mulder – who is also Deputy Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister – affirmative action was the basis of the government’s policy initiatives to correct inequalities in the country.

“Dissatisfaction regarding the controversial policy has however, spread to such an extent that it is at present the subject of intense discussions and even court cases.”

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He was referring to a Solidarity Movement case involving coloured members of the Correctional Services, who claim to have been discriminated against in terms of the policy. The case is being heard in the Cape Town Labour Court.

Meanwhile, Solidarity Movement executive officer Dirk Hermann said that trade union Solidarity had announced that the Inkatha Freedom Party, the DA and the Freedom Front Plus had already indicated that they supported and would request a parliamentary debate on affirmative action, which he said was the best place for such a discussion. Solidarity’s request to them came “amid” Solidarity’s court case.

“The Department of Correctional Services’ case shows that affirmative action as it is practised at the moment, has failed.”

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Solidarity has long argued that an output-based numerical approach is wrong and that affirmative action should, instead, focus on people and on the skills needed to grow the economy.

SAPS targets

Hermann has produced an authoritative book on the subject entitled Affirmative Tears: Why representivity does not equal equality. He refers to a case involving Jennila Naidoo, an Indian woman with 24 years’ police service. In 2009, her name came up before a provincial interviewing panel for the position of cluster commander – with the rank of general – in Krugersdorp. Her application was rejected on the grounds of the SAPS’s affirmative action policy. It was given to a black male officer instead.

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Naidoo initiated a grievance procedure, arguing that she had been unfairly discriminated against. Naidoo also argued that the SAPS’s affirmative action plan placed an absolute ceiling on promotion. The case was heard in the Johannesburg Labour Court by Judge AJ Schaik.

On behalf of the SAPS, one Colonel Ramathoka explained the plan to the court. In this plan, the SAPS targets were based on the 2001 census report.

South Africans were made up of 79 percent Africans, 9.6 percent whites, 8.3 percent coloured and 2.5 percent Indians. The target for women was 30 percent and for men 70 percent.

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Thus when the relevant position was advertised, the allocation for Indians – the apartheid-defined racial category into which Naidoo fell – was 2.5 percent of all available posts; 70 percent of the 2.5 percent for Indian males and 30 percent of the 2.5 percent for Indian females.

There were 19 positions available on level 14. This translates into 15 Africans of which 11 were African males. Seven posts were filled so four African males were needed. For Indian females “the calculation is 19 times 2.5 percent = 0.5 positions to be filled by Indians, then 0.5 positions times 30 percent [30 percent is the target of females] equals 0.1 Indian females and that is rounded off to zero”.

It continues: “But here are only five available positions. 0.125 could go to Indians times 30 percent gender allocation means 0.037 could be allocated to Indian females and that is rounded off to zero.”

Indian females on level 14 were ideal because there were none and the ideal was zero, the colonel explained. “There was one Indian male on level 14, but, there ought to be none.” Nothing more needs to be written about the sheer absurdity of affirmative action policy than that.

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Donwald Pressly.

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