Government’s BEE policy means fewer opportunities for black jobseekers

Xolile Mpini

Sat Jun 06 2020 22:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

There should be no laws that put people off starting businesses and looking for workers to help them make a success of their businesses

The government must abide by the wishes of our great former president, Nelson Mandela, as contained in our constitution, and remove all racist policies from the laws and government policies of SA.

The rights of all unemployed South Africans, as contained in the bill of rights, must be given back to them, especially the right to enter into contracts of employment with any employer they wish, on any terms and conditions they find acceptable.

During the lockdown all small businesses have not been treated equally. Officials have given benefits to some people and denied benefits to others based on their broad-based BEE (BBBEE) ratings. We know all too well what it means to be discriminated against. Discrimination leads to unnecessary suffering, destabilises relationships in the country, and harms the people. Discrimination is the cause of mass unemployment in the country.

BEE promotes domination of one race by another. Mandela has been betrayed and he will turn in his grave and curse those who promote racial tensions among his people. The Langeberg Unemployed Forum (LUF) finds BEE policies discriminating. We therefore call for the scrapping of the BBBEE Act.

Mandela said: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Madiba risked a death sentence and spent 27 years in prison to fight for freedom, and his bravery and suffering are thrown away as if they never happened. Shame on those who do not heed his words. Shame on those who have sat in parliament and passed racist laws, especially those laws that do not seem to be racist but have the result of keeping people unemployed. A law that forces white owners of businesses to give away a percentage of their businesses or to employ a certain percentage of black employees is a disaster for the unemployed.

We say this because the interference means that there are fewer businesses that can offer us jobs. Yes, some black employees are better off, but most of the 10-million unemployed are black. Look at the reality and do the sums.

There should be no laws that put people off starting businesses and looking for workers to help them make a success of their businesses. They must be able to choose their employees on merit and level of wages. As it is, we are convinced that if race and other barriers to enter the workplace played no part, there would be fewer unemployed black people.

We regard business owners as our potential friends, not our enemies. It is small businesses, households and individuals who are most likely to employ the people we represent. They are the young, old, unskilled and long-time unemployed job seekers. We speak for all unemployed and do not discriminate based on race. We stand with Madiba on this issue. We stand for a non-racial SA.

The unemployed are victims of laws such as the Labour Relations Act and the Minimum Wage Act, which were adopted by parliament, and no matter what they seem to say are really there to protect people who have jobs.

The name of the government department dealing with labour has been changed to the department of employment & labour. Our complaint to the Human Rights Commission and the name-change have not brought any change in the treatment of the unemployed. Economists have predicted that the lockdown will cause the pre-lockdown Stats SA unemployment figure of 10.3-million jobless people in SA to climb by 1.6-million to 11.9-million, which is about 50% of the country’s possible workforce.

We know there is little chance of these discriminating laws being removed. But we have a solution. Accept our proposal for a jobseekers’ exemption certificate. It would leave those who have jobs with their protections while allowing the unemployed to get jobs.

The certificate would allow the unemployed to bargain with employers for jobs at any wage and on any conditions mutually acceptable to them. It would harm nobody and benefit millions.

The time has come for a jobseekers’ exemption certificate to be introduced to save our people from poverty and misery.

• Mpini is CEO of the Langeberg Unemployed Forum.