The vicious cycle of racial transformation

Theuns Eloff says ideology has blinded the ANC to the reality of the policy

The reaction to my previous article (Racial transformation is not good for the country or reconciliation, 13th January) made me realise that it put in words what many members of minority groups had been feeling for a long time. But whether it has been read by anyone in the ANC government is uncertain – I had received no reaction from those quarters.

Nevertheless, a number of worrying and related incidents that have occurred since then, make one wonder whether our rulers would ever take heed of arguments against racial transformation, or whether they even hear them. It seems that racial transformation still reigns supreme and is apparently growing even stronger.

In a recent discussion with the Black Business Council, President Ramaphosa confirmed that the distribution and administration of Covid-19 vaccines will again be part of black economic empowerment (BEE) – on the basis of racial transformation. One commentator piously stated that the pandemic does not suspend the Constitution and BEE economic empowerment “is part of the Constitution” – an apparent reference to the equality clause in section 9(2).

This states that unfair discrimination by government may take place to achieve equality. The Constitution, however, does not prescribe BEE specifically as a means in this regard, and the system of racial transformation has shown itself to be the poorest means to achieve equality, with entitlement, a lack of responsibility, and eventuality corruption, going hand in hand with it.

One would think that with the widespread corruption in the procurement and distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE’s) – and now also the unnecessary and expensive sanitising of Gauteng schools – still fresh in mind, the authorities would have wanted to prevent this in the case of vaccines.

The highly complex and massive process of distribution and administration of the vaccines should be undertaken by the most experienced, qualified and effective people, whether they are black, white or purple. It surely should not be allocated exclusively to black people just because they are black?

If race is the sole measure, we are heading for a Covid-19 vaccine corruption that will dwarf the PPE corruption. Have we learnt anything at all or we blind to reality? And who will be disadvantaged? Ordinary South Africans who are dependent on the state to receive their vaccinations.

In almost the same breath, President Ramaphosa also confirmed (again!) that the tourism equity fund of R1,2 billion was only aimed at African entrepreneurs – and that it is actually meant to promote new entries into the sector. It is widely accepted that the tourism sector is the one that had been most adversely affected by the serious Covid-19 lockdown regulations.

This is not only applicable to large hotel groups or airlines, but particularly to medium and smaller businesses – where jobs are created for all South Africans. The equity fund would not be used to assist them – at least not if they are not African.

While tens of thousands of these enterprises struggle to keep head above the water, and some have already gone down, tax payers’ money will be used to create new entrants into the sector – in many cases without any knowledge or experience in the sector.

The nett effect will be that a few (black) privileged will get an opportunity, at the expense of thousands who had lost their livelihoods and jobs. Racial ideology does indeed blind one to reality, especially the consequences of your actions.

A third example: in a recent article it was reported that the Minister of Justice had confirmed that retired judges (of whom most are white, including the highly respected justice Hans Fabricius) would not be used anymore to help clear the backlog on court cases – supposedly because it would lead to an “additional establishment” (of judges).

This, while very little else is done to clear the backlog, and while it would not cost the state a cent to utilise retired judges, as they are remunerated for life in any case. In the same report it emerged that the Judicial Services Commission gave a (black) judge who took up to three years to deliver a verdict, a mere slap on the wrist, with the explanation that he could not have done better, because of his inexperience. Woe is me..  

The only reasonable explanation for these kinds of decisions is that the utilisation of (especially white) judges (even though it is gratis) does not fit the ideology of racial transformation. The consequence is that ordinary people forfeit their opportunity for justice – because “justice delayed is justice denied”. And perhaps that “slow” judge should have gained a little more experience before he was appointed to that responsible position? The rhetorical question is apt: how long does it take to gain ten years of experience?

This brings me to another (true) anecdote. A number of years ago, in a medium-sized Limpopo town there was a senior municipal official who received a good salary every month. Let us call her the director of infrastructure. In the municipal audit, it was found that she had claimed an additional amount of R10 000 per month, without specifying what it was for.

In response to an enquiry by the auditors, she stated (without hesitating or blushing) that it was used to pay the person who “did the work”. She did not find this strange, as she occupied the position; she was entitled to it and did not also need to do the work associated with that position.

I suspect that if she introduced herself as the director and someone would ask her “what do you actually do?”, she would have answered “I am the director”. Being the director is her job, she does not need to do anything else - apart from using tax payers’ money to pay the person who did the actual work!

This example – which is not an isolated incident if one considers how many millions of Rand are used annually in the civil service to pay consultants to “do the work” – shows clearly the twofold problem of entitlement/lack of responsibility on the one hand, and a lack of training/experience on the other.

Back to the judge: perhaps he should have paid someone to the “work” of writing his verdicts – while was already carrying the heavy burden of the position!

Two local authorities were in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. Courts have found that they had not fulfilled their constitutional duties towards tax payers and residents – Grahamstown (Makanda) and Koster (Kgetlengrivier). The Amatola municipality is so bankrupt that it is not able to pay salaries to its employees and traditional leaders (!) for the next six months.

All media reports on Grahamstown and Koster’s problems had mentioned mismanagement, corruption and a “lack of capacity”. In both instances, civil society organisations (with black and white members) brought court cases to have something done about the lack of service delivery, poor or no sewage systems and eventually life-threatening situations.

In Koster’s case, the court gave the responsibility (albeit in the short term) for managing water and sewage to the civil society organisation – with the stipulation that the local government should reimburse them for expenses made. If the latter will ever happen remains to be seen.

The point is: the residents of these two municipalities (white, brown and black) are victims of racial transformation. Incompetent officials had been elected or appointed purely because they were black. They occupy the positions, but cannot or do not want do the work.

This is the cause of the now infamous clause: “lack of capacity”. And in these cases even the Limpopo example mentioned above would not work anymore: there is neither the will nor the funds to pay even R10 000 per month to have the work done. The work is therefore not done – but the (paid) positions remain occupied.

And so South Africa and the majority of its population stagger from one corruption case to another, from one failed municipality to another, from one occupier of a position that cannot and will not do the wok, to another. And the main cause of all of this is becoming clearer by the day: The ANC government’s ideology of racial transformation.

Because collective racially-based advantage leads to entitlement and the mere occupation of positions, to a lack of accountability and individual responsibility, to a lack of good management and governance, and eventually to wanting even more, and corruption.

This is the vicious cycle of racial transformation. And as long as the ANC government does not see this reality and its consequences, and does not move away from this ideology, South Africa and its people will not receive what the Constitution promises them.

Theuns Eloff is an independent commentator. This article was first published on Netwerk24.