Nonracialism is key for parties to make political gains - Post

Apr 05, 2023
If President Cyril Ramaphosa’s criticism of the ‘weakening’ of non-racialism in the ANC is an acknowledgement of the governing party’s error in veering from the non-racialist path, he must be commended. But the President should be warned that the solution does not lie in setting new racial targets.
Nonracialism is key for parties to make political gains - Post

Mlondi Mdluli

If President Cyril Ramaphosa’s criticism of the ‘weakening’ of non-racialism in the ANC is an acknowledgement of the governing party’s error in veering from the non-racialist path, he must be commended. But the President should be warned that the solution does not lie in setting new racial targets.

In a letter sent to President Ramaphosa this morning, the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) points out that promoting white people, or any people, on the basis of new racial targets only puts a new hue on a very old mistake.

The IRR’s letter was prompted by the President’s reported remark that the “non-racial character of the ANC has been weakening, and I have said so on a number of occasions”.

If the President has truly acknowledged that the ANC has veered from the non-racialist path, this must be commended. To solve a problem, it must first be acknowledged, and the exacerbation of what Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi has called a “more aggressive strategy” of racially based social engineering emanating from the ANC is a problem deeply in need of resolution.

However, as the IRR letter suggests, rather than seeking to impose new racial targets, the ANC should move towards non-racial appointment practices within its ranks.

More fundamentally, however, the President must immediately send back the Employment Equity Amendment Bill (EEB) to the National Assembly for a fundamental redraft. Section 79(1) of the Constitution obliges the President to do so if he has reservations about the Constitutionality of the EEB.

The EEB is unconstitutional on at least six bases, as the IRR has pointed out to the Presidency. On 2 November last year, the Presidency promised to consider these objections before making a final decision on the EEB.

If passed, the EEB would allow the imposition of Dis-Chem-style racial moratoria on hiring in roughly 85% of the private sector workforce. It would effectively reintroduce pre-disqualification criteria in government procurement, which is approaching R1 trillion per annum, on the basis of race. This would be “more aggressive” racialism, just as Minister Nxesi recommended.

If President Ramaphosa is serious about reversing the ANCs further descent into aggressive racialism he will send the EEB back to the National Assembly, and advise his party to redraft the Bill on the basis of non-racialism without delay. This is what the IRR has requested.

Should the ANC abandon the path of racialism and embrace non-racialism in its place this would have notable political consequences.

An independent survey commissioned by the IRR in 2022 asked a randomly sampled group of South Africans, inter alia, “Do you prefer a political party which promises faster economic growth and more jobs, or one which promises land expropriation without compensation as redress for past wrongs?”

82% of respondents said they prefer the promise of faster growth and more jobs, versus 15% who said they prefer the promise of expropriation without compensation as redress for past wrongs. The breakdown was similar within race groups.

When asked in a similar poll in 2020, “Who should be appointed to jobs in SA?”, 17% of respondents endorsed the view that “only” black people should get jobs, either “for a long time ahead” or “until demographically representative”, while 82% endorsed appointment on “merit”, either “with special training for the disadvantaged” or “on merit alone, without such training”. Again, the breakdown was similar within race groups.

When asked in the 2022 poll, “Do you believe that South African sports teams should be selected only on merit and ability and not by racial quotas?”, over 90% of respondents said “yes”, again with a similar breakdown within race groups.

This begins to explain why non-racialism is more popular than any political party. Any political party that embraces non-racialism both internally and in its policy programme stands to make political gains.

Mlondi Mdluli is the Campaigns Manager at the Institute of Race Relations 

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