Compliance will amount to business implosion
By Gerhard Papenfus
A few days ago, the President signed into law legislation which will enable the Department of Employment and Labour to determine and enforce ‘race quotas’ in the workplace. Although the draconian nature of this legislation is camouflaged under the term ‘target’, this is nothing other than ‘quotas’.
This is a detrimental development which, in the long run, will benefit absolutely nobody. The economy will suffer as a result hereof, and although a few might benefit in the short term, these benefits will vanish as investment, business and job opportunities dry up, the ‘economic cake’ diminishes, and unemployment increases. It will eventually severely affect those who were supposed to benefit from this ill-advised scheme.
It is vital to understand that the recently signed legislation is merely a step, a phase in the “continuing and seamless transition” towards the ultimate goal – racial “demographic representation” in the workplace (81% Black, 8.8% Coloured, 7.6% White, and 2.6% Indian); as in all areas of societal and economic life. This is according to the ANC’s “Strategy and Tactics – enhancing organisational integrity and intensifying action towards a National Democratic Society” (the “document”).
In this document they make it clear that the status quo which they inherited regarding the economic, social, religious, cultural, family and other relations in all communities, has to be “destroyed”. Employers need to realise that giving in to whatever demands coming from this racist legislation, will only provide temporary relief. According to the ruling party’s vision, the noose will be continuously tightened towards the goal of, what they call, a “national democratic society”, in actuality a hostile dispensation which will ultimately fail all South Africans, of course with the exception of those feeding at the troth, and those in their close vicinity and loyal to them.
According to this document, those who are to benefit from this dispensation will be the ones who drive this agenda, being impelled by “profound self-interest”.
Almost thirty years into democracy and this “social experiment” (the exact words they are using) is a spectacular failure. They have set out to “eradicate poverty, reduce inequality, achieve higher rates of economic growth, social inclusion, full-employment and skills development”.
But what have they achieved? According to StatsSA, more than 18 million people currently live in extreme poverty. Between 2021 and 2022 alone, 123 000 more people were pushed into poverty. We have become the most unequal society globally, and that as a result of the “profound self-interest” which is evidently the driving force behind this agenda; the economy is in a downward spiral; contrary to what they say, the ruling party thrives on racial division; we are experiencing a 43% unemployment rate and those with skills increasingly leave the country, and the ruling party makes no effort to retain the skills of those who still make South Africa their country of choice.
Their social grant system is a temporary relief for those who cannot find work, a substitute arrangement born from a failed economic model. Unless the job market grows, which the ANC obviously has not set out to achieve, the project will become unaffordable and will eventually end in a disaster.
The quality of their free education is of such a nature that most of the learners coming through the system are unfit for the job market. Their education system has failed South Africa, with dire consequences in the long run.
Now they want to enforce these policies on the private sector; the same policies which have resulted in the failure of all state institutions, all State Owned Enterprises (Eskom, Transnet, SAA, SABC, the Post Office, Landbank, PRASA, DENEL, to mention a few), and all municipalities, once again with a few exceptions. However, where these failed institutions rely on endless state bailouts, through monies generated by the private sector, the private sector does not have this luxury. When a business fails, it fails; for a business there is no fallback position, and the state will not save them.
That is why the right of a business to conduct its affairs in a way that it deems fit is inalienable. That includes the right of an employer to employ people on the basis of skills, qualifications, experience, attitude, the culture of the business, the nature of the business and its clients – without taking into consideration the colour of the skin or gender of an applicant. A decision in this regard must be at the sole discretion of the employer, who carries the risk, and all the consequences of a wrong appointment. Since nobody else carries that risk, nobody else is supposed to interfere in this decision; and that includes the state.
This, of course, is not in line with the ANC seeking “an intense role of the state in the economy”. Since their misplaced interference is the main cause for their economic failures, it is incomprehensible that they continue with this interference despite their admission that they need a “thriving economy” in order to create the society they envisage. But then, of course, socialism and a thriving economy are a contradiction in terms – they simply cannot co-exist.
For business, this legislation constitutes a line in the sand. If business bows to this, it will not only signal the beginning of the end for entrepreneurship and business, but will lead in the rapid acceleration towards South Africa’s demise.
Gerhard Papenfus is the Chief Executive of the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA).
For more information:
NEASA Media Department