The Employment Equity Amendment Act (EEAA) is not just a perverse, incompetent, and tyrannical piece of legislation, but yet another milestone on this government’s journey to embracing its own form of Apartheid.
The EEAA, proposed on the 12th of May 2023, aims to set strict racial quotas for any business with over 50 employees. These quotas are arbitrarily assigned across every province, and across dozens of industries. And, as what should not come as a surprise to those who have watched the ANC’s obsession with race, it effectively disqualifies coloured and Indian individuals from employment in whole swathes of industries and provinces.
The act sets minimum and maximum quotas for employees of certain race groups. First of all, this should be completely unacceptable. The fact that we still entertain racial quotas at all, rather than focusing on the merit of individuals or some other metric to determine employability, suggests that South Africa still has a long way to go before it becomes a competent state.
In practice, this minimum and maximum racial quota creates a hellish paradox for employers, as it may become impossible for them to fulfil. If a business in a province is required that 1% of its employees be Indian (no more, no less), and it hires an Indian person, it will suddenly have 2% of its employees being Indian; a contravention of the rule. If this employee is subsequently fired, they will have 0% Indian employees, and be in contravention again.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The punishment for contravention is disqualification from tenders and doing work with the state. This will bar countless legitimate businesses from providing their services to municipalities and the government. And this gap will no doubt be filled by corrupt and connected tenderpreneurs who have falsified their quotas.
The EEAA is nothing new in South Africa, however. It is just an attempted strengthening of existing racial quotas and social engineering.
Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) has been used as a tool for decades for the corrupt to use ‘redress’ and ‘racial equality’ to gain ill-gotten wealth. A severe corruption of original intentions that may or may not have been well intended. But, it hasn’t benefited the genuinely disenfranchised. It has not addressed poverty. All it has done is damage and confuse businesses, while allowing criminals to manipulate the system to rise to the top.
The ANC is not the originator of racial quotas, race-based employment, and social engineering, however. It is merely a student of the regime it replaced.
Apartheid’s Racial Quotas
Apartheid, in essence, was all about race-based employment and racial quotas. When we remember it today, we are drawn to the pettier sides of Apartheid. The whites-only beaches and benches; the dompas; the separate bathrooms. But that was just the impractical, ludicrous side of Apartheid.
What started it all was an obsession by white workers, and unions, to not have to face black competition in the job market.
In 1921, a major labour uprising erupted in and around Johannesburg. The Rand Rebellion, as it was called, was sparked by mining companies decreasing wages and dropping racial quotas to allow the promotion and employment of black workers to skilled and supervisory positions. White workers, represented by the Communist Party of South Africa and a variety of worker organisations, waged a violent insurrection to force the mining companies and government to reinforce racial barriers to employment.
This was typified in the slogan of the rebellion: “Workers of the world, unite and fight for a white South Africa.”
The Rand Rebellion was crushed by Jan Smuts, but soon won an electoral victory in the 1924 elections. The new regime, a coalition of the National Party and Labour Party, recognised white trade unions while reimposing the colour bar.
The political power of these white nationalists and socialists grew and finally culminated in the outright victory of the National Party in 1948. While Apartheid was to be formally dubbed and implemented later, it had effectively already been phased in over time.
And at the root of it all was a desire by white nationalists to ensure that they did not face competition from other races in the job market, a desire that they believed justified by the poverty of their people at the end of the 2nd Anglo-Boer War*, and a need for redress.
Redress can be legitimate, but it should not come in the form of reprisals, job reservations or quotas. All that accomplishes is a cycle of hatred. It doesn’t stop. All it does is hurt plenty of people along the way.
Additionally, coloured and Indian people were also victims of Apartheid. In what way is it just to punish them in an attempt for redress?
It is clear that while the pettier sides of Apartheid thankfully ended, and universal suffrage was achieved, a lot of the ideology of Apartheid persists in those who claimed to have defeated it. Racial quotas are the root of Apartheid thinking. Add to this fact that the ANC is desperate to implement expropriation without compensation, and you get a government that not only wants to push entire race groups out of employment, but also has the tools to achieve forced removals.
We could also delve deep into how the Bantustans, nations fabricated by the Apartheid regime, were never really abolished, and have persisted under their own tribal trusts and customary law – denying their people property rights and turning swathes of land into unworkable, unprofitable and corrupt wastelands.
What is clear is that the ANC learnt far more from Apartheid than just how to overthrow it. It learnt how to flip it on its perceived enemies. And this government will continue to reinforce its own form of Apartheid, not caring who gets hurt, until its bizarre notion of justice, redress and nationalism is achieved.
Unless South Africans put their foot down and stop it.
Author: Nicholas Woode-Smith is an author, economic historian, and political analyst. He is a contributing author for the Free Market Foundation. The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily shared by the foundation.
*The Second Anglo-Boer War is sometimes called the South African War. This new title is deceiving as there were plenty of major wars involving South Africans. The Anglo-Zulu War, the First Anglo-Boer War, the Frontier Wars. The title of South African War should not be reserved for just one.