South Africa is not transforming - COSATU

Federation angered that whites still make up 73,6% of top management

Employment Equity Act is failing to transform South Africa

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is angered by the report of the Commission for Employment Equity. It reveals that whites - who make up only 12.1% of the economically active population - still occupy 73.1% of ‘top management' positions. African people - who make up 73.6% of the population - occupy only 12.7%, Indians 6.8% and coloureds 4.6%.

These figure show a minimal improvement from 2006, when blacks constituted 11.3% of top management and whites 74.9%.

At the lower ‘senior management' level, the situation is fractionally better, but whites also still dominate, with 64.1% of those positions, compared to 17.6% for Africans 7% for coloureds and 9% for Indians. The number of whites in these positions has dropped by just 6.8% since 2006, while the number of black people had increased by 4.2%, Indians by 1.4% and coloureds by 1.2%.

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant says she is "disappointed" at the slow pace of reform at top management and she is determined "to take drastic measures to deal with the situation".

It is more than "disappointing" however; it is a national disgrace that we have done so little after 17 years of democracy to reverse the racial imbalances we inherited from the days of apartheid. The Employment Equity Act is failing abysmally to transform the discrimination inherited from apartheid. In the private sector most employers do not even submit EE reports and those that are submitted reveal that virtually nothing has changed.

As CEE chairperson Mpho Nkelo says, at the current rate of change it would be 127 years before the racial breakdown in top management was representative of the racial breakdown of the total economically active population.

Thirteen years ago in 1998, when the Employment Equity Act was passed, COSATU called on all South Africans to give it support, saying it was the only way in which we could achieve national reconciliation and transformation in our country.

It is a call that has clearly not been heeded in the boardrooms of business, where top executives have been helping themselves to bigger and bigger salary increases and bonuses, while fighting against wage increases for their workers and doing nothing to relinquish any of their control over the country's economy and their ownership of its wealth.

We cannot claim that we have succeeded in building a non-racial democracy, when apartheid still lives on in the economy and every aspect of our lives. On average white workers earn 8 times as much as black workers in manufacturing industry. An average African man earns in the region of R2 400 per month, whilst an average white man earns around R19 000. The racial income gap is therefore roughly R16 800 among males.

Most white women earn in the region of R9 600 per month, whereas most African women earn R1 200 per month. The racial income gap in monthly incomes among women is therefore R8 400. On average, white women also earn eight times more than their African counterparts.

It is the same story in relation to black economic empowerment, which has failed to bring about any meaningful change. Almost all the 20 top paid directors in JSE listed companies remain white males.

Urgent action is required to start enforcing these laws more effectively. The Freedom Charter said that "all apartheid laws and practices shall be set aside". We have changed the laws but clearly not all the practices!

COSATU will do everything possible to assist government in working to achieve a society in which the distribution of wealth reflects the population distribution of South Africa, while fighting just as hard to achieve greater economic equality within the world's most unequal society.

Statement issued by Patrick Craven, COSATU national spokesperson, August 4 2011

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