This time next year, the 20th anniversary of our democracy, South Africans will be preparing to vote in the country’s 5th national election.
The 2014 poll will be preceded by the toughest campaign ever. The reason, ironically, is that the ANC is more divided and vulnerable than it has ever been. And it will resort to the only “issue” it has left to mobilise its fractious support base.
That issue is “race”.
The prime target of the ANC’s “divide-and-rule” campaign will be the growing number of black South Africans who support the DA. These young people know the pain of the past, respect the heroes of the anti-apartheid struggle, and want to build a shared future for all South Africans. That is why they choose the DA.
Because they dare challenge the ANC, they will be labelled “sell-outs”, or as ANC MP Buti Manamela (who is also a Young Communist leader) recently put it: “monkeys doing the bidding of their masters”.
Alternatively, there will be the kind of threat issued by Nceba Faku, former ANC regional chairman in Nelson Mandela Bay. Speaking after the party’s narrow 52% win in Nelson Mandela Bay during the 2011 local elections, Faku railed against “black South Africans who voted for the DA”. He said they “should go to Europe or be driven into the sea”.
If ever there were unconstitutional and racist statements, these are.
Yet, ironically, the ANC and the SACP accuse the DA of racism. Their principle unstated premise is that the ANC “owns” all black South Africans, and that they cease to be “real blacks” if they support the opposition. It is bizarre logic. But few people question it. And the ANC relies on it.
That is the argument the ANC uses to justify the deployment of its cadres to all institutions of state in order to achieve “real” transformation. And the same strategy is used in many “civil society” organisations.
Thus during the past week, the South African Youth Council (that claims to be a non-partisan umbrella structure for youth organisations in South Africa, but in reality is a parking place for ANC cadres) labelled Zakhele Mbhele, my spokesman, as a “co-opted black liberal” whose opinions are “absolute hogwash” and who is “anathema to positive youth development”.
They did not engage with any of his substantive arguments. They just hurled racist insults.
That is still small potatoes compared with the regular attacks on the DA’s Parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko, who was notoriously labelled a “tea girl” by Julius Malema; and “not African” by ANC spokesman, Jackson Mthembu. Joe Seremane, the retired DA federal chairperson, was called “Helen Zille’s garden boy who just smiles at the Madam”.
The purpose of these attacks is to make it so difficult for black South Africans to oppose the ANC that they choose to toe the line or remain below the radar. It takes particular courage to face being “branded” and excluded from social and economic networks dominated by the ANC. So much for the constitutional right of free association.
The ANC’s bullying not only serves its political purpose well, but also the economic aspirations of its cadres. This is why it has distorted the constitution’s approach to employment equity, using it as a convenient fig-leaf to deploy politically connected cadres to key positions in the state, who then award tenders and contracts to the broader ANC network. National Planning Minister, Trevor Manuel, described it best when he said recently: “Whatever else this practice may masquerade as, it is not empowerment, it is theft”. It is no surprise that this endemic corruption is most prevalent in South Africa’s two worst performing provinces, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. And it is even less of a surprise that Manuel’s self-evident observations have been the target of a torrent of abuse from other ANC and trade union leaders who are determined to preserve “cadre deployment”.
This practice is, in fact, a direct contradiction of the intentions of the Constitution and the Employment Equity Bill, which both seek to extend fair opportunities to all. Nowhere does the law provide for political manipulation of “outcomes” in top positions to do the bidding of the ruling party; still less to enrich politically connected individuals. There is no requirement to pursue “demographic representivity” without regard to the pool of suitable and qualified candidates.
The National Development Plan attempts to correct these prevailing perversions of employment equity. It states that the primary goal of policy must be to end absolute poverty and reduce inequality. It sets out a vision of “a country where opportunity is determined not by birth, but by ability, education and hard work”. And it lays out a planning framework to achieve this.
Rapid economic growth and significantly improved education and health care are essential pillars of the NDP’s approach.
As Manuel put it: “The role of the state is to intervene decisively to change the opportunities available.
It does so by providing high-quality services to the poor, especially services such as education and health”.
This cannot happen without an independent, professional and skilled civil service that will serve all the people – the opposite of cadre deployment. Says Manuel: “There is a dearth of skilled professionals in the middle of the public service. This … includes engineers, IT professionals, forensic specialists, senior prosecutors, subject advisers, supply chain management specialists, financial managers and legal experts. No bureaucracy can function without these skills….”.
The NDP stresses that employment equity does not involve “race” trumping other criteria, such as qualifications and experience. The primary focus of employment equity must be on education, training, opportunity, mentoring and staff development.
The NDP summarises its approach as follows: “Career mobility and rising incomes are more likely in an economy that is growing rapidly. Selecting good quality black and female candidates will be easier if the education system is producing ever greater numbers of skilled black and female work entrants.”
In other words, rapid economic growth and improving education will create more opportunities for all, and thus achieve employment equity outcomes more effectively than a shrinking economy, presided over by ANC cadres, who are involved in an internal battle for control of a diminishing number of top jobs. The ANC’s “cadre deployment” approach can only result in economic decline and ultimately a “failed state” in which the poor suffer most.
Speaking to senior public servants in Pretoria last week, Manuel put it this way: “No matter how you were appointed, no matter who appointed you, you are not accountable to the ruling party…. This new approach may come as a surprise to you. It may also come as a surprise to your political principals.”
It will come as a surprise to many others as well.
The Daily Voice newspaper is one of them. This sensation-sex-and-sport tabloid has arrogated to itself the role of monitoring race-based appointments. Its premise is that colour is the primary criterion for appointment at the highest level of the party and state, which should be manipulated to achieve “representivity”. It is bad enough that this newspaper has such a limited understanding of the constitution, the law and the National Development Plan.
But what makes their “exposés” so ironic is that the Daily Voice has a white male editor-in-chief and a white male editor. Furthermore, pending the finalisation of the company’s sale, Independent News and Media has a white male chief executive officer, and a board of non-executive directors comprising (according to their website) 8 white men and 2 white women.
Yet this newspaper has spent the past week driving racist attacks against the DA with headlines such as “Zille’s white party sucks”. Perhaps the paper is positioning itself for the “cadre deployment” model of affirmative action that they anticipate will follow the Company’s take-over by the ANC-aligned Sekunjalo Holdings.
The attack is also ironic considering that the DA has the most diverse membership and leadership of any party. Apart from myself, there is Wilmot James (chair), Lindiwe Mazibuko (Parliamentary leader); Mmusi Maimane (deputy chair); Makashule Gana (deputy chair); Anchen Dreyer (deputy chair). Compare that to the ANC’s leadership or any other party, for that matter.
But the source of The Daily Voice’s self-righteous outrage was my answer to a Parliamentary question from COPE’s Mbulelo Ncedana, who predictably always (and only) focuses on race.
He asked, among other things, for the number, and racial categories, of staff members who have left the provincial government through “termination of employment for any reason”.
Our computer database includes in the definition of “termination for any reason” the following categories: Death, Resignation, Expiry of Contract, Boarding for reasons of Ill-health, Retirement, Employee-initiated severance package, Transfers to other government departments, Dismissals.
Dismissals constitute a tiny proportion of “terminations”. Out of a total workforce of 80,000, only 165 people (of all races) were dismissed after proper disciplinary hearings in 2009/10; 196 were dismissed in 2010/11; and 169 people were dismissed in 2011/12. There is no significant difference in these statistics compared to the ANC’s term of office.
Over 70% of all terminations are the result of contracts reaching their legitimate termination points at the end of specific projects. But getting to the bottom of these facts would have destroyed the Daily Voice’s “racist angle”. So they trumpeted the complete nonsense that more than 20,000 black and coloured people “have resigned or been fired” by the DA-run province since 2009. This lie was the basis of a tirade that ran for several days.
Ncedana’s question had also asked for the number and race profile of the Province’s top management and professionally qualified specialists.
The totals for the three top categories included in this definition are as follows: Black – 2,405; Coloured – 9,811; Indians – 532; Whites – 6,199.
This means that whites constitute 32% of the top management and professionally qualified specialists. Of the most senior management (those in pay-classes 15/16) whites constitute 47% (16 out of 34).
Yet in order to suit its racist agenda, the Daily Voice picked out only one category of “professionally qualified specialists” so that it could announce that “Whites hold 66% of Western Cape Government’s top posts”. That was a deliberate and manipulated distortion of what the answer to the question revealed.
Is it any wonder, in these circumstances, that the public find it hard to understand the approach to equity set out by the constitution and the law? What chance is there of a general understanding of the approach of the National Planning Commission?
Yes, we must deal with the legacy of South Africa’s racist past. But allowing “race” to trump the truth is not the way to go about it. We must all work together to achieve the National Development Plan’s goal of eliminating poverty and reducing inequality by 2030. This means that everyone’s top priority, whatever their race, must be to contribute towards growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society.
Accurate reporting would also be a useful contribution to this goal.
This article by Helen Zille first appeared in SA Today, the online newsletter of the leader of the Democratic Alliance.
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