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The Youth stands to benefit more on the continuation of affirmative action and Black Economic Empowerment

05 March 2009

The role of middle class youth and professionals

The ANCYL like its mother body has had a protracted programme of ensuring that there is transformation from the point of view of socio-economic relations in society as a whole. This process was defined both by the ANC and the ANCYL at varying level. First the ANC during theFreedom chapter process - in the real congress of the people where all people from all corners of South Africa, black, Indian, white and colored met to define what they demand of thetransformation process of South Africa. Beyond just agreements on the creation of a just and democratic society where harmony amongst the people exist, South Africans also demanded specific interventions to the economy and I will only quote just a few.

The People Shall Share in the Country's Wealth. This was to be a matter which needed a strategic framework for it to be delivered for all our people equally. The national wealth of our country and the heritage of South Africans, needed to be restored to the people so that each person who lives and works in South African can an active beneficiary from the minerals, raw material and that there needed to be transfer of ownership from the banks and from monopoly capital to the poor and the majority peoples of our country. This was surely not just going to be achieved out of the blue. A protracted struggle for the liberation of Black people in general and Africans in particular had to be waged to appreciate the importance of the implementation of this programme.

For many this needed some strategic interventions for the access to education and to funding for the implementation of their business ideas and tabbing in the opportunities available at their own disposal. There was then a need for higher education transformation to appreciate themajority participation of people into the system of education. This was to allow them to be able to actively participate and set the agenda for transformation in South Africa

Role of the middle class in South Africa

During the breakthrough in 1994, the transfer of economic power seemed to pose a challenge to government and the broader community at large. This process required that the state working with the progressive people's of South Africa, must ensure that there is first sufficient educated and fine tuned individuals who will enter the market either from the point of view of employment and or the creation of small micro medium enterprises. The SMME's in their own nature and form would allow the emergence of the Black Middle Class and thus penetration in the private sector whilst allowing the state facilitates the necessary conditions for access through legislation and other policy work.

In this regard the ANC has had a protracted strategic programme to build and develop themiddle class to be a motive force of the revolution. Therefore the middle class would have to impact positively and progressively in the nurturing of democracy but equally in the transfer of economic power to the majority peoples of our country. This would be done through theutilization of their skills base and knowledge by the state and the community to better the social conditions of our people at large. This role would therefore position the middle class at thecoalface of development beyond their role as citizens.

The major task ahead of the middle is and will continue to be their role in the creation and facilitation of a policy environment which will help to ensure that there is participation for all in theeconomy and the body politic of South Africa.

The middle class would be the motive force due to the fact that they would use their intelligentsia in a progressive manner in analyzing the strategic nature of their location in thebroader society for the benefit of the poor and the total transfer of economic power to thepeople. For this to take place government of the people as led by the ANC needed to create strategic platforms through policy for the realization of this responsibility.

Why the Affirmative Action

Again the freedom charter asserted that All Shall be Equal Before the Law. This did not only relate to courts and the judiciary but also to access and fairness in the employment process and in access to equal opportunities irrespective of race and creed. Affirmative Action, as a concept was designed to address the imbalances of the past, the racial segregation and discrimination in the employment process. For South Africa to have a significant participation of African people and black in general in the employment process, the ANC government needed to create a strategic platform through policy to ensure the fulfillment of the obligations imposed by our constitution of the republic section 9 (Equality Clause) and the Freedom Charter. All this is done to emphasize a point echoed in the very Freedom Charter that "There shall be equal status inthe bodies of state, in the courts and in the schools for all national groups and races"

Therefore our view as the ANCYL that the continuous implementation Affirmative Action should be accelerated to ensure that we achieve the promises we made to our people since theattainment of freedom in 1994 that things will no longer be the same, the status quo in terms of employment and creating opportunities must change. As we embarked on this journey of transforming our country, we introduced pieces of legislations such as the Employment Equity Act. This Act seeks to achieve two things in the main: firstly it seeks to promote equal opportunity and fair treatment in employment through the elimination of unfair discrimination, secondly to implement affirmative action measures to redress the disadvantages in employment experienced by designated groups, in order to ensure their equitable representation in all occupational categories and levels in the workplace.

Affirmative Action in its true form seeks to redress the imbalances of the past by looking at race, gender, minorities and the disabled people. It is through policies such as AA that we will change the economic landscape in our country. When the ANC talks about the creation of decent jobs in its manifesto, the ANC still wants to give impetus to the very application of a non racial and non discriminatory Affirmative Action Policy of accessing decent jobs in South Africa

Simply put it, the ANC and its alliance partners are saying our people should be able to ascendthe corporate ladder like any one regardless of their colour, gender and disability. Our people must have access to medical aid, housing benefits, must not serve longer probation periods because of their skin colour or gender and must be permanently employed. There is still greater work that must be done to ensure 50/50 in the employ of our government and that of the private sector. There is a greater need for skills transfer and that the assumption that our people do not have skill must stop and the opposite which is the reality must prevail.

To make practical example of this, in many municipalities in the country there was a tendency of advertising jobs with hilarious requirements. They will be looking for a person who has ten years experience in Local Government environment whilst our local government has less than thesame ten years. So the point is to bridge the gap between this processes, the Affirmative Action had to be brought up as the policy of government in which all private and public sector must adhere to it. Much of the opposition to the affirmative action is based on the grounds of so-called "reverse discrimination and unwarranted preferences. Whilst the actual fact is that for South African to have an equal society free of discrimination at all levels, direct intervention fromthe state is needed in the form of policy and facilitation of implementation of such. In the event of the non implementation by some, punitive measures must be put in place to ensure that we are one country with one voice.

Part of what is still taking place in some parts of the country is that the shop floor is black andthe boardroom is white. These employments patterns still need to be changed in a much more strategic manner that does not necessarily infringe on the rights of the others. South African workforce must be representative of the socio-political dynamic of the country at all cost and at all levels. Whilst there is a bit of progress in the private sector more still needs to be done in thepublic sector and the Affirmative Action will not stop now at all.

The ANCYL will not rest until the shop floor changes from being black and boardrooms white.The status quo must change now. We are not talking about cosmetic changes or window dressing, we are talking real change. We are not hallucinating, we are not in dreamland, and we want to see young black people in particular in those boardrooms.

Black Economic Empowerment

It has always been our firm belief that the economy of this country is still in the hands of thewhite minority. People must not insinuate that we are being racially discriminative when we give a picture of what is happening in South Africa. The reality is that BEE is still necessary and theANC led government does not have regrets for implementing it. This important policy is aimed at broadening the economic base of the country and to further stimulate economic growth by ensuring that majority of our people participate and benefit.

This will in the long term address the question of inequalities in our society. Some do not understand that the implementation of this policy is not only a moral issue to address what theapartheid government did to our people by excluding them from active participation in theeconomy. It further seeks to stimulate growth. Despite the difficulties we are experiencing globally, we will continue to ensure that there is enough state intervention to help our people. The ANC Polokwane conference took a decision that we must accelerate the pace in ensuring that we move towards a Developmental State. Others will accuse us of shifting more to the left, others may refer to us as the lynch mob, the reality is that all that we are doing is for the benefit of all our people not a few individuals.

Today, others who have highly and corruptly benefited from BEE have the nerve to tell us that we must do away with BEE. Ours is to correct the mess that they created by abusing this system to enrich themselves. This noble intervention was nearly tarnished by statements of those who said they did not join the struggle to be poor. They benefited from tenders in a dodgy manner and now because their wallets are protruding from the back, they tell us that we need to do away with BEE.

The true intentions of these policies is nothing but to fully liberate our people from poverty and address all inequalities as a result of the horrendous system we had in this country called apartheid. We will continue to be in favour of BEE and ensure that it produces as many millionaires as possible so that job opportunities could be created and young people in particular benefit. It was not an accident that we introduced these policies, we were driven by the systemic oppression that we went through as a people, the society and nation, therefore we will not rest until equality in South Africa is achieved.

This is an edited version of a speech given by ANC YL President Julius Malema at the Young Professionals Session at the Polokwane International Airport, Gateway on the 5th of March 2009.