A new report shows that very few South Africans benefit from current empowerment polices which, as a result, do not draw much support.
And despite active protest, the government is determined to ‘intensify’ its transformation policies including black economic empowerment (BEE), irrespective of what critics might say.
In a speech last month, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa said the government planned to ‘intensify’ BEE in the country.
He said government was “hell-bent” on ensuring that black South Africans owned and managed the country’s economy, adding that “those who don’t like this idea – tough for you – that is how we are proceeding”.
A report published by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) collected the opinion of 2,245 people – 1,757 black people, making up 78.3% of the total, 203 coloured people (9%), 63 Indian people (2.8%), and 223 white people (9.9%).
It found that most South Africans (85%) gain nothing from BEE related policies. In addition, most (87%) strongly endorse the merit principle, while a mere 6% think job appointments should be linked to demographic representivity.
By contrast, 78% see better education and more jobs as the keys to reducing inequality.
Ironically, a small proportion of whites say they have benefited from BEE policies: perhaps by helping to advise on BEE deals, or by sub-contracting to do the work a BEE contractor has been appointed to perform.
Hence, 9.4% of whites – as contrasted with 14.2% of blacks – said they have benefited from BEE deals.
In addition, 10% of whites say they have been awarded BEE tenders, which is very similar to the 11.5% of blacks who have benefited in this way, the report said.
Respondents were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the statement that ‘the best person should be given the job, regardless of race’.
Overall, 87.1% of respondents agreed that people should be appointed to jobs on merit, rather than race. Only 12.8% disagreed. Among black South Africans, 84.7% wanted appointments to be based on merit, rather than race.
Has affirmative action in employment helped poor black South Africans? More than half (52.8%) of respondents agreed with this statement while only some 46.9% disagreed.
Among blacks, the proportion that agreed was higher still, at 53.6%. Some 50.1% of coloured people also agreed, as did 57.8% of Indians and 47.7% of whites.
The survey then dug a little deeper by asking people if affirmative action in employment was in fact helping their community. Only 33.8% of respondents agreed that affirmative action was helping, whereas 66% disagreed. Among blacks, 37.1% agreed and 62.9% disagree.
Has affirmative action in employment helped you personally? Whereas 52.8% thought affirmative action of this kind helped poor blacks in general, only 15.1% agreed that such affirmative action had helped them personally. By contrast, 84.8% disagreed.
Among black South Africans, 16.6% had personally benefited from affirmative action, whereas 83.3% had not.