‘Apartheid All Over Again,’ as South Africa’s Ruling ANC Set to Pass New Race-Based Job Laws

‘Apartheid All Over Again,’ as South Africa’s Ruling ANC Set to Pass New Race-Based Job Laws
South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his opening remarks at the Department of International Relations and Cooperations in Pretoria on March 10, 2022. (Phill Magakoe/AFP via Getty Images)
Darren Taylor
5/30/2023
Updated:
5/30/2023
JOHANNESBURG—When there’s electricity in the midst of daily blackouts, machines grind and hum inside Paul Morrison’s engineering works east of Johannesburg. 
His employees work with steel and metal alloys, sometimes in conjunction with plastics, rubber, glass and wood, to manufacture tools and equipment for South Africa’s construction industry. 
“We design and develop prototypes for some clients, so this is highly specialized work. We use Computer Numerical Control machines; known in the industry as CNC machines. We cut metal and steel using laser technology,” an enthusiastic Morrison told The Epoch Times. 
His 318 employees make up a formidable team that churns out a diverse range of products, from run-of-the-mill forklifts to air-chain hoists, which use air compression to lift heavy equipment via a complex system of chains.  
Job seekers stand outside a construction site ahead of the release of the unemployement numbers by Statistics South Africa, in Eikenhof, south of Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 23, 2020. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)
Job seekers stand outside a construction site ahead of the release of the unemployement numbers by Statistics South Africa, in Eikenhof, south of Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 23, 2020. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)
“Most of these men and women have been with me 10 years plus,” said Morrison. “But a good few have been with me since I opened the business 22 years ago.
“Now the government wants me to retrench many of them, just based on the color of their skin. What am I going to tell them? It’s sick. It’s apartheid all over again.” 
South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) has drafted amendments to its recently-passed Employment Equity Act that labor experts and opposition parties say  will ban “non-black Africans” from employment across most of the economy. 
Under the ANC’s affirmative action and black economic empowerment (BEE) policies, instituted after it took power in 1994, companies are only permitted to employ a few white people, with management positions in particular largely reserved for black citizens.  
Many white professionals continue to emigrate in search of employment, with millions now residing in countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 
According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 914,901 South African citizens emigrated between 2015 and 2020. 
Dirk Hermann, of the Solidarity trade union, told The Epoch Times: “Our research shows that it’s not only skilled white South Africans leaving the country but also Indian, colored [mixed race] and black citizens.
“These are mostly young, university-educated people who are taking their expertise elsewhere because of the ANC’s corrupt jobs-for-pals schemes, its failed job creation policies, its inability to deliver basic services such as electricity and water … I could go on and on.”  
Hermann said the government’s new employment regulations would spark fresh waves of emigration. The proposed laws target whites as well as race groups the ANC previously defined as black, and thus legitimate beneficiaries of affirmative action and BEE.  
The regulations would affect 18 key sectors of South Africa’s economy, including money-spinners such as mining, agriculture, manufacturing, finance and technology, but also smaller sectors like the arts and science.   
A coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga, South Africa. Energy analysts say the country's national electricity regulator, Eskom, is on the brink of collapse as the nation endures lengthy blackouts. (Eskom)
A coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga, South Africa. Energy analysts say the country's national electricity regulator, Eskom, is on the brink of collapse as the nation endures lengthy blackouts. (Eskom)
In some cases, the “target” set for firms employing whites, Indians and people of mixed race is zero percent.
“That means companies cannot employ a single white, Indian or colored person. That’s racist and unconstitutional,” said John Steenhuisen, leader of chief opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA). 
He told The Epoch Times the ANC amendments amounted to “social engineering” and the alliance would fight them in court. 
“The latest apartheid-like policy from the ANC is nothing but a ban on giving work to people who the ANC says are not black enough.
“It’s an extension and further entrenchment of the ruling party’s policy of cadre deployment, according to which it rewards loyal party members with jobs, whether they have the skills or not,” said Steenhuisen.  

Forced to Retrench Staff

If the amendments pass through parliament, which they almost certainly will because of the ANC’s large majority, Morrison would be forced to retrench the 87 coloreds he employs, along with 31 workers who are citizens of Indian heritage. 
He is frustrated, and angry. 
“So I must fire a third of my workforce not because they are bad at their jobs but because the government does not consider them to be ‘black Africans?’ Is this the way to build an economy that’s already falling apart?” asked Morrison. 
Under the ANC the official unemployment rate has risen to almost 33 percent, the highest in the world. 
Morrison said he had already recruited as many black African engineers as possible, to comply with the government’s BEE laws. 
“The sad fact is that our education system is failing to produce adequate numbers of black engineers, so I don’t know how I am expected to replace my colored and Indian engineers with blacks. Obviously I can no longer employ whites; I don’t even consider white applicants for jobs anymore,” he added.  
DA analysts estimate that almost 600,000 South Africans will lose their jobs in the next few years if the new employment equity legislation is implemented. 
They project that 404,608 white individuals, 116,934 Indians, and 71,518 colored people would be retrenched. 
Explaining the need for the revised employment laws, Vincent Magwenya, spokesperson for President Cyril Ramaphosa, said most South African workplaces “haven’t transformed enough” since 1994. 
“The new laws will promote diversity and equality in the workplace and empower the government to set specific equity targets by sector and region, where transformation initiatives have failed,” Magwenya told The Epoch Times. 

‘Employment Equity Plans’

He explained that companies with more than 50 employees would have to submit “employment equity plans” for their companies on how to meet these targets, and then submit annual reports to the Department of Employment and Labour.
“If companies want to do business with the state they will need to be in possession of a certificate from the department confirming they are in compliance with the Employment Equity Act and its objectives,” said Magwenya. 
He added that the Act required government labor inspectors to visit companies to “analyze” their workforces. 
Responding to critics of the new regulations, chairperson of the government’s Commission for Employment Equity, Tabea Kabinde, told The Epoch Times: “These new targets are aimed at making sure that big businesses are more demographically representative of the country.
“We’ve given companies five years to comply; that’s very fair. If companies are able to show government that they can’t find a black African for a certain post, they can appeal and government will listen to that.” 
But the DA argues that the ANC’s amendments amount to establishing racial quotas. 
“The laws force businesses to terminate jobs based on race. This is a quota system which is illegal in South Africa,” Michael Bagraim, DA parliamentary representative on employment, told The Epoch Times. 
But legal experts said the ANC would likely use “technicalities” to push the legislation through. 
“Technically, the new regulations are numerical targets, and that’s legal in South Africa,” said J.J. van der Walt, a Pretoria-based labor lawyer. 
“Of course, when businesses are under pressure to implement the law, some will actually use racial quotas and that’s when we’ll see court cases.” 
He told The Epoch Times: “Under apartheid, jobs, other than manual labor, were blatantly reserved for whites and whites only. Numerical targets are what the government calls ‘flexible employment guidelines.’” 

Firing White, Indian, Colored Workers

But the DA and others want to know how a “target” of zero percent employment for a particular race group is in any way “flexible.” 
Kabinde, however, was adamant: “These targets are not quotas. Quotas are rigid and prescriptive; targets are flexible.” 
Explaining this “flexibility,” she continued: “Employers have five years to reach the sector targets. If they cannot achieve the targets and can show good reasons for this, they will not be penalized and they will not be expected to retrench anyone.” 
But Bagraim said the “mere existence” of the “so-called equity laws” would be enough to “intimidate” companies, especially smaller ones, to “fire” white, Indian and colored workers, and to “never again” consider them for employment.  
“Only the biggest of firms will have the time and resources needed to legally oppose these racial quotas. So the ANC’s new regulations will actually end up being self-defeating because you’ll see businesses with just a few employees conforming to the unfair targets, while the big boys with thousands of workers will just tie the government up in long, drawn-out court cases, and carry on regardless.” 
The DA’s also convinced the ANC’s new employment regulations are designed to “punish” the ruling party’s political opponents, and to win black votes, ahead of a national election next year. 
Very few whites, coloreds and Indians support the ANC. 
Coloreds are the majority population in Western Cape province, the only South African region governed by an opposition party (the DA).
They also have a significant presence in neighboring Eastern Cape, where ANC hegemony is under increasing threat as services crumble and previously loyal black communities rebel against ANC-run municipalities. 

Education System ‘Collapsing’

There are large colored and Indian communities in Gauteng, South Africa’s industrial and financial center, where many are employed in factories.   
Kabelo Kgobisa-Ngcaba, a lawyer and labor consultant, said the ANC’s Employment Equity Act would “demonize” coloreds and Indians. 
“They suffered under apartheid, and now they’re going to suffer in a democratic South Africa because they’re not considered to be ‘real blacks’ according to the ANC’s twisted logic,” she told The Epoch Times. 
Kgobisa-Ngcaba said while the ANC’s employment legislation had a “superficially reasonable justification,” it was actually a strategy to hide the government’s failures. 
“Who signed the bill and is about to sign off on the amendments? A president who promised one million jobs in his first term of office, but has failed to create one job. The ANC’s new employment regulations don’t create any jobs; they steal jobs that already exist and reallocate them.” 
She said the legislation wouldn’t even succeed in redistributing existing jobs more “equitably.”
“We live in a country with an education system that’s collapsing. Finding any suitably qualified person for a position, whatever their race, is difficult. Now we have this racial quota system to make it even harder to fill posts with credible employees.” 
Kgobisa-Ngcaba said the revised employment regulations would “disincentivize” multinationals from investing in South Africa. 
“They’ll take their money and jobs to places that have simpler and more sensible labor laws, educated workforces and reliable energy supplies.” 
She said the ANC was “constantly gaslighting” black people with “progressive” legislation that always seemed to leave them worse off. 
“Then it stands up and tells us how grateful we should be, because it’s ‘transforming the economy’ in our name. It’s disgusting and we shouldn’t accept it anymore.” 
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