President Cyril Ramaphosa says parties in parliament should be prepared to engage on matters of national interest and on matters which these organisations hold opposing views on.
“One such fundamental matter is the redress of the injustices of the past, we should not simply agree to disagree,” Ramaphosa said during his response to the debate on the state of the nation address.
He said parliamentarians should discuss and debate with the aim of persuading each other.
“Yesterday there was a concern raised about Black Economic Empowerment and affirmative action, one of our members raised such an issue,” he said.
Ramaphosa said this member suggested that young white South Africans are excluded from job opportunities, bursaries and other opportunities, based on the colour of their skin.
“We must not ignore such concerns because they are being expressed and we must not just dismiss them willy-nilly nor must we just say they don’t matter,” he said.
He, however, said when such concerns are engaged with, it is imperative to be mindful of them because statements that young white people are being unfairly disadvantaged by affirmative action bodies is not realistic.
“The reality we know does not bare testimony to that. Data from the Statistics South Africa indicates that white young people still do better in develop indicators such as education, employment, entrepreneurial opportunities and well-being,” the president said.
He added that unemployment among Africans stands at 30% while it is just under 7% for white people.
“Big difference, so one can never say the others are much more advantaged than the others,” Ramaphosa said.
He said employment opportunities still favour young white South Africans as compared to their black compatriots.
“They [young white people] are still more likely to complete matric and progress to tertiary education than young black children in our country,” the president said.
He further said young white South Africans are more likely to complete tertiary education and proceed into the labour market with better prospects than their black peers.
“White South Africans, particularly men, still dominate at the senior levels of the economy. That cannot be denied, that cannot be disputed, ever,” he said.
He estimated that 10 years ago he saw a front-page article that reported that the economic situation had improved for young white people since the dawn of democracy with the black people regressing.
“And we need to keep that in mind as we deal with the problems that beset our country. We have made significant progress since 1994 in addressing these racial disparities but we clearly still have a long way to go,” he said.
The president added that there is still a long walk to be taken to address gender disparities in the country which makes the acceleration of Black Economic Empowerment, Employment Equity and transformation of the education system a critical focus.
He said the creation of a non-racial society does not mean the legacy of apartheid and colonialism should be ignored.
“It requires the liberation of Africans in particular and black people in general from the economic and political bondage that still holds them back.