The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has suggested the implementation of a new form of affirmative action in the employment sector, designed to benefit those previously disadvantaged under Apartheid rule. In a recent policy paper, the institute suggested the use of a non-racial policy based on economic and educational disadvantages, to replace the current race-based system.
Amongst the authors of the paper is Advocate Mark Oppenheimer, who was critical of the current state of affirmation action, noting that many South Africans were being hampered in the hopes of being employed on merit.
Detailing the Equality Protection Clause as listed in the country’s constitution, he stressed that South Africa had been founded on the values of non-sexism and non-racialism. This also meant that the very measures put in place to redress the wrongs of the past, need also be non-discriminatory.
“What it asks is that we look at disadvantaged individuals. This is what the paper actually focuses on. If we want affirmation action, which I think we need to have, we must do so on the grounds of the disadvantaged,” he stressed.
According to Oppenheimer, this meant looking at various issues like economic disadvantages and educational backgrounds amongst others. In this manner, it would be easier to determine who had actually been previously disadvantaged.
Many employers have now opted for a two track employment system, one based on the merit of an individual, with the other on affirmative action. But Oppenheimer suggested this system, particularly the latter part, was a risk of being abused to suit the employers own aims.
“If you are the black person who has been lucky to have great opportunities and granted access to a great university, and would have gotten the job based on merit anyway, the employer gets to tick the racial blocks and put you into that category,” he explained.
Oppenheimer was also against the concept of racial diversity in the employment system, with each racial group equally represented in a particular field. Whilst in agreement with the idea of diversity, he said such practices could also be considered discriminatory, as it would limit prospective employee’s chances should they not meet the racial quota.
He stressed that all discriminatory practices that made it hard for prospective employees to find a job needed to be rooted out of the system, declaring that such racism could not be tolerated. It was also vital that employers took measures to ensure they acted in a non-racial manner when employing people.
“Often people say it is important to be racially diverse. Now if we think that race is like other features of ourselves, our hair color and or height, then there really is no value beyond an aesthetic one,” he said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)