“I believe the progress is very disappointing,” he said at an Ahmed Kathrada Foundation conference in Sandton, Johannesburg. “Seventeen years on [from the introduction of transformation legislation] there is a tale of two cities.”
These were the public sector, which had made greater gains, and the private sector, which was “vehemently resisting” transformation. “I believe that business is somewhat lacklustre in pursuing the vision we committed to,” Pityana said.
The constitutional mandate of transformation was sometimes implemented in unconstitutional ways. He referred to a case of coloured workers who challenged the Western Cape correctional services department’s employment equity principles, which relied on national rather than provincial demographic profiles.
Pityana said: “Arguments about migrating people defies the fundamental thrust and principle [behind transformation policies]….” The intention behind these policies was not only moral, but also to create an efficient labour market. The local labour market had to be efficient to make it globally competitive.
The Unemployment Insurance Fund was envisaged as a tool to help those who were out of work for short periods, rather than as a welfare tool.
Pityana said there were problems with the retention of black professionals. Some moved from one job to another because they found their working environments undermined their self-esteem, and others did so in pursuit of higher salaries.
Pityana said increasing calls for transformational quota systems needed to consider this could be at the expense of labour market efficiency. “Proponents of quotas forget that job reservation and quotas are the same thing.”
Rather, the labour value chain, from education to promotion and staff retention, needed to be improved to achieve transformation. The labour market could also not afford to lose the skills of whites, even as it aimed to promote designated groups’ interests.
“Affirmative action and employment equity [are] in some cases either used as blunt instruments of discrimination or about conformism,” Pityana said.
“We are implementing affirmative action in South Africa, where the designated group is the majority…. [We must] be careful it is not used as a blunt instrument [which] discredits the intent behind the policy.”
As such, there needed to be a paradigm shift from one of transformational redress towards a non-racist and non-sexist society, he said.