Historical Context of affirmative action in South Africa
Historically, in societies all over the globe, various groups of people, usually minorities (classified according to traits like gender, cast, ethnicity, and religion) are discriminated against, resulting in lack of access to resources, education etc. Every now and again the tables are turned and these unfortunate groups find themselves in a position of power where they can reverse the flow of resources and redress the evils of the past. The resulting policies are termed Affirmative Action (AA) policies. AA policies are practiced all over the world including Malaysia, United Kingdom, United States, Brazil and India (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirmative_action, last accessed 20 June 2007)
In South Africa there have been various periods of AA, for example between 1890 and 1948 there was AA in favor of the English; from 1948 to 1974, under Nationalist rule, there was AA in favor of the Afrikaners (Terblance, 2005). Terblanche, 2005 termed these periods of embourgeiosment. During both these periods it was the black people (African, Coloureds and Indians) that were most deprived in terms of access to resources and skills and most wealth became entrenched in the hands of the whites (Dean, 2005).
Actually, throughout, South Africa's colonial history an impressive array of legislation was implemented to supply the colonialist masters with labour (Chalera, 2007). However, the measures implemented in this country appear to have been similar to measures in other colonial countries (Dean, 2005). It was the Nationalist Government who, through more than 350, laws set out to systematize and entrench the discriminatory measures implemented under colonial rule. (Dean, 2005)
This unequal situation led to an enormous accumulation of wealth in the hands of a privileged few by the time of the 1994 elections. Chalera (2007) has summarized some of these inequalities:
20% of the bottom earners in the economy only received 1.5% of the national income
10% of the wealthiest earners received 50% of the national income
41% of Africans were unemployed as apposed to only 6.4% of Whites
30% of Africans earned below R500 per month as apposed to less than 5% of Whites.
Africans only constituted 2.9% of top management as apposed to 96% of Whites.
The inequality extended to members of the different professions, for example in 1991 there were apparently only 30 African engineers as apposed to 17 840 White ones (Chalera, 2007).
After the 1994 democratic elections, it was time to redress the inequalities of the past and for black people to experience the benefits of AA.
The Legislative Framework
Deane (2005) gives a review of the legislative framework for Affirmative Action in South Africa. The foundation for affirmative action is laid by our constitution where it is stated in Section 9(2) that "Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. To promote the achievement of equality legislative or other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be take." Deane (2005) identifies the following legislation as been most important in preventing discrimination and laying the foundation of for AA:
The Labour Relations Act of 1995 (LRA)
The Promotion of Equality and Unfair Discrimination Act of 2000 (PEUDA)
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997 (PCA)
The Skills Development Act of 1998 (SDA)
The Employment Equity Act of 2000 (EEA)
In addition the more recent Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act of 2003 (BEEA), and its associated Codes of Good Practice of 2007 are also applicable. Probably, the most important piece of legislation for regulating AA is the EEA act of 1998 (referred to as the Act below) which has the purpose of achieving "equity in the workplace, by promoting equal opportunity and fair treatment in employment through the elimination...
References: Chalera, C.S. 2007. An impact assessment of South Africa 's national strategy for the development of SMME 's. Thesis submitted to the University of Pretoria.
Deane, T. 2005. Affirmative Action: A comparative study. Thesis submitted to the University of South Africa.
Ministry of Education, 2001. A National Plan for Higher Education in South Africa
Terblanche, S. 2005. A review of the rise of the Afrikaner middle class in South Africa. Black Management Forum Conference, Sandton Convention Centre 13-14 October.
University of the Witwatersrand. 2006. Employment Equity Policy.
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