"Dying" ANC's racial policies born again in the DA - Business Day, 11th November 2013.

Nov 11, 2013
John Kane-Berman argues that the Democratic Alliance's policies are moving closer to that of the tripartite alliance's.

Some months back (Business Day, 27th May) this column defended the Democratic Alliance (DA) for clothing itself in liberation garb. The African National Congress (ANC) professed outrage at the DA's behaviour, but the official opposition and its predecessors had fought the good fight against apartheid. Despite vilification on Left and Right they had kept the liberal flag flying and were entitled to claim some of the credit for the demise of the policy that made South Africa a swearword around the world.

Since then the DA has betrayed its heritage. Worse, its parliamentary caucus has endorsed legislation devoid of economic rationality. In so doing it has helped to jeopardise growth and betray the jobless. Not once this year, but twice, the DA caucus has voted to impose fines and prison sentences for offences against black economic empowerment (BEE)  and employment equity requirements.

The fines the DA supports go up to R2.7 million or 10% of annual turnover, whichever is the higher. The prison sentences it supports can go up to 10 years. Mrs Helen Suzman's reaction would have been unprintable.

The DA is of course tapping into the moral confusion about race that grips the politically correct in the Western world. Part of this confusion is that discrimination is not acceptable against blacks, but kosher against whites. In its worst form, as the history of Africa shows, this moral confusion turns a blind eye to all atrocities other than those committed by whites. 

Another part of the confusion is the fundamentally paternalistic idea that blacks are incapable of doing anything for themselves, so that whites must do it for them. In fact, the harm that this legislation will do to blacks outweighs the harm it will do to whites. 

President Jacob Zuma has bewailed the lack of black industrialists in South Africa. This is an amazing admission after more than R600 billion has been spent on BEE. But the reason is simple. His government's policy puts the responsibility of creating black industrialists upon white industrialists. Why would they do that? One or two exceptions aside,  it's not in the nature of businessmen to promote competition for themselves. A visit to the competition authorities would surely enlighten anybody upon this point.   

The DA seems to think draconian enforcement of racial quotas in the name of employment equity will benefit the poor. The evidence suggests the reverse. Application of racial quotas throughout the public sector has eroded its competence, causing poor communities to explode in fury almost daily. As for the enforcement of such quotas in the South African Police Service (SAPS), the main beneficiaries are probably the child rapists and other criminals against whom desperate people in townships and shack settlements carry out vigilante attacks from time to time. 

The DA also seems to believe that tougher enforcement of black economic empowerment (BEE) requirements will promote growth. Logic suggests the opposite. The investment needed to promote growth is already in jeopardy because of uncertainty over mining rights, and because of plans to reduce the protection that foreign investors currently enjoy under bilateral treaties with various countries. Additional BEE demands will further undermine this country's already diminished attractiveness to all investors, local as well as foreign. 

If the DA is not aware of the extent to which our poor investment climate already puts growth at risk, it needs to upgrade its research capacity. If it is aware, but nevertheless piously votes for economically harmful legislation in the hope of attracting black votes, it is playing a cynical game.  

It has been clear for some time that the DA is moving closer to the ANC and its communist and trade union allies on racial policy. The DA is now also moving closer to the ruling alliance on interventions in the economy. The DA has claimed that the ANC is dying. If so, it is ironic that its racial policies are being born again in the official opposition.   


* Kane-Berman is the Chief Executive of the South African Institute of Race Relations.

This article was first published in Business Day on 11th November 2013.





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