Given the snail's pace at which South African employers are implementing employment equity programmes, a debate on whether affirmative action policies should now be abandoned is not only premature but also scandalous, the Black Management Forum (BMF) said.
Presenting the BMF's Employment Equity Review to the Labour Portfolio Committee in Cape Town, the forum's managing director Jerry Vilakazi said there was a lot that still needed to be done.
"The dismal statistics presented by the Employment Equity Commission (EEC) indicate to us that we still have a long way to go in attaining the objective of the affirmative action and Employment Equity Act.
"The debate calling for an end is purely premature and our view is that legislatures should not even entertain that kind of a discussion at this stage," he said. Vilakazi was responding to the EEC annual report for the year 2003 - 2004.
The report indicates that very little was being done by employers to achieve the objectives of the act.
According to the report, for all top management positions, white people account for 72.2% while black people account for only 23.8%.
A paltry 14.1% of women are represented in top management positions. People with disabilities remain at about 1% of the total workforce.
Mr Vilakazi said these statistics were discouraging and called for a renewed campaign and drive to force employment equity compliance under the supervision of the Department of Labour.
"There should be a partnership initiative between organised labour, black business and interest groups' organisations to work together to identify and eliminate all instances of unfair discrimination in South Africa."
"Whilst enforcing compliance with the EE act, a 24-month campaign with roles for the different stakeholders is recommended," he said.
He also pointed out that some employers were, in order to comply with the act, appointing black managers to senior positions but not giving them meaningful roles.
"We are also concerned about some of the trends that we see developing in some of the companies in the country, where blacks are being appointed in positions that never existed before."
"If you look at some of these positions, there are positions with good titles but not responsibilities. Companies that originally had one CEO all of a sudden have several CEOs."
He said the department of labour should ensure that the top management positions occupied by black people in companies are not quantitative but qualitative as well.
The BMF, which boasts close to 4000 members across the country, has always been at the forefront of the empowerment of black people at the workplace.
It played a key role in the affirmative action debate in the early '90s. The debate culminated in the release of a blueprint for affirmative action policies in 1993.
By Clive Ndou - BuaNews