How Affirmative Action is Killing My Country
Out of the Frying Pan into the fire - SA's Uneducated Leadership
Can you imagine the chaos at your own offices if the newly graduated high school students were suddenly promoted to management without qualifications and experience?
Imagine teenagers with issues no greater than their newest party or what to have for lunch managing the finances of a multi million rand/dollar/euro/pound corporation.
Imagine that there is no way once these immature, though probably enthusiastic, young managers start sinking that company that you can reign them in or tell them what to do or how to fix it and you will have a pretty good idea of what is happening in South Africa right now.
There are a lot of merits to equality of course. Everybody with the same qualification and experience should be given the same opportunities to fill a position, regardless of sex, race or religion. I believe that firmly. However, that is not what BEE is about now, is it?
Wikipedia and BEE
Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) is a programme launched by the South African government to redress the inequalities of Apartheid by giving certain previously disadvantaged groups (Blacks, Coloureds, Indians, and Chinese who arrived before 1994) of South African citizens economic privileges previously not available to them. It includes measures such as Employment Preference, skills development, ownership, management, socioeconomic development, and preferential procurement.
The BEE conundrum
BEE by its very name is Black Economic Empowerment - not EEE Equal Economic empowerment, or fair economic empowerment, nope, its blacks only.
That sounds remarkably like a previously frowned upon government strategy for whites only, don't you think? Only this time it's black people only. Black people who may not have the education, or the qualification, or the experience to know what they are actually doing in these posts.
Please do not misunderstand, I am not implying that all black people are not equipped for the job, what I am saying however, is that when you restrict a vacant position based on race and often sex, you are bound to be fishing from a smaller pool and you are probably not employing the best candidate but the only one who is available at the time.
So now we have a difficult situation, companies in South Africa have to achieve a certain BEE status (black staff quota) to be able to operate.
This has been a massive challenge for most and has resulted in some interesting and rather detrimental employment policies.
Some companies have had to sell fifty percent or more of their shareholding to black managers and partners - for free, in an attempt to obtain BEE status.
Some companies have employed several blackboard members who have a vote at AGM's on the financials but have no idea what's really going on. These professionals also charge a handsome fee of up to R 25 000 p/meeting to attend.
Some companies initially tried to employ BEE juniors and train them up the levels to earn management positions and have combined these with some management posts and these are probably the most successful models however, there is a massive flaw in this idealistic model - lack of suitable candidates due to poor education.
Labour Costs Escalate exponentially
To keep their businesses going and their BEE quotas safe, many companies and even government departments are using contractors.
This model has bred its own issues with those contract companies supplying the labour force needing to be BEE themselves so generally what happens is that a few fat cats set up these employment agencies and then "sell" competent contract labourers, who are often indian or white workers, to these companies at inflated rates.
It was recently discovered that at Eskom highly skilled IT consultants were only earning one third of the rates charged by the contract companies, the rest is going to the contractors themselves who are earning millions monthly and literally raping the system. the sad thing is that this system cannot be changed because the BEE requirements prevent the consultants from being employed on a permanent basis at lesser rates, even though this would mean that the companies themselves could then afford more staff and would be able to expand their operations!
This same policy is what is leading to continued strikes and frustrations at our post offices, as per the article on Fin24 yesterday by Terry Bell, which again points to corruption and mismanagement of funds in the employment sector!
Sadly, postal workers on strike have lashed out at the country violently, burning cars, smashing furniture and attacking their own colleagues to prevent them from going to work. Not only is this preventing the company from earning an income and will possibly lead to the complete closure of the postal services in South Africa but its creating more distrust and more poverty across the country.
It's this shortsightedness that is leading South Africa down a road of continued economic dis-empowerment and financial distress.
BEE and Education - The Ideal vs Reality
South Africa's current government schooling system leaves much to be desired.
With population growth out pacing the number of suitable teachers available, or even the availability of decent schools, our classrooms are bulging and our students struggling. Government schools are currently pushing between 40-60 children in a classroom, an impossible situation for any teacher to handle. New government schools aren't being built and many schools don't even receive their textbooks on time. How can any child thrive in this situation?
According to equaleducation.org.za, the statistics of standards in existing government schools are horrific:
- 3 544 schools do not have electricity, while a further 804 schools have an unreliable electricity source;
- 2402 schools have no water supply, while a further 2611 schools have an unreliable water supply;
- 913 do not have any ablution facilities while 11 450 schools are still using pit latrine toilets;
- 22 938 schools do not have stocked libraries, while 19 541 do not even have a space for a library;
- 21 021 schools do not have any laboratory facilities, while 1 231 schools have stocked laboratories;
- 2 703 schools have no fencing at all; and
- 19 037 schools do not have a computer centre, whilst a further 3 267 have a room designed as a computer centre but are not stocked with computers.
This is the state of the schools that do exist and yet there are thousands of children who do not even have access to schools and education!
Most suburban schools have either become semi privatized or private schools have mushroomed up to cater for parents who are genuinely concerned about their children's level of education and these private schools are charging anywhere from R 5000 - R 15 000 p/month. That's between £ 200 and £ 600 p/month and is on average the equivalent of an admin worker's salary - per child. These fees do not include books, uniforms, extra murals, outings or after school care.
For those parents who can afford this system it is a relief that their children will still be employable when they graduate, if not in South Africa should they happen to be white.
For most black parents, this model is simply not affordable and they have no choice but to rely on government schools where their children are not being taught properly at all and yet are expected to take over the reigns of this beautiful country and make sound judgments in business and politics.
Add to this dilemma the lack of qualified black teachers (yes, even these jobs are usually reserved for BEE candidates) and a pass rate of just 35% in government schools and you have a veritable melting pot of frustration, inequity and perpetuating failure.
Taxes and Spending in all the wrong places!
The recent budget speeches do not help either as they indicate that taxation of those who are employed is about to increase and further burden an already struggling nation.
The reality is, with the nation being so drastically divided and the minority of working, contributing South Africans struggling to provide for the unemployed and uneducated, the government is fighting a losing battle and refuses to face facts.
No amount of budget cutting is going to help ease the decay. Our government has been caught red handed wasting in excess of R 30 billion a year and hasn't even begun to look for a practical means of strengthening, feeding and empowering its nation.
This wastage probably doesn't even include the contract labour issues discussed above!
Academics vs Income
A somewhat frustrating thought is that the government is already failing at this project of educating our nation and hasn't even considered any alternatives.
In an age where tradesman and skills are scarce and food shortages a global concern, our government hasn't even offered to set up informal trade schools or community projects where at the very least underprivileged people are taught to build their own homes or grow their own food with basic language and maths skills just to help them survive better. Instead our townships grow daily with thousands of people who rely on government grants for food. People flock to the cities seeking work and free government homes in already overcrowded and under serviced communities, where South Africa is such a vast land with so many natural resources.
Worse yet, our government offers grants per child, rather than per family so the more children you have the more money you earn as an underprivileged black person, exacerbating the population growth issues and bringing yet more children into our world who will not be properly fed or educated.
The government doesn't seem to offer any incentives to young black families to stay in their rural areas and learn to develop their own sustainable societies. With today's available technologies surely it would be cheaper to build sustainable communities and gardens using solar energy, rainwater collection systems and simple housing technologies like earthships that use old tyres to build sustainable homes?
The earthship technology would make for wonderful rural school systems too and keep children fed so they can concentrate and provide practical studies on how to build their own earthships, maintain their own gardens and grow their own food as well as how to implement and maintain sustainable energy systems, all without relying on government at all!
Would it matter if you were unemployed if you had a home, water and food to start with?
To BEE or not to BEE?
Do you believe SA should abolish BEE?
The Hope in the end of BEE
In truth, South Africa already has all it needs to survive, we have 1.2m km² of land and several natural resources. We have rich and bountiful farmlands that could be farmed and managed with amazing results. There are so many wonderful and new sustainable technologies from all over the world that could provide electricity, water and food without reliance on government.
All we need is some honest leadership and a truly fair and equal approach to all aspects of our nation and the abolishment of the cancer known as BEE.