No to “quotas” linked to skin colour. A new law aimed at increasing black employment in South Africa is angering entrepreneurs who fear job losses for skilled workers.
The government ensures for its part that it is only a question of promoting diversity and equality. “This does not mean that white people are going to be eliminated to make way for disadvantaged groups,” Labor Minister Thulas Nxesi recently pleaded.
The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), plans to demonstrate on Wednesday in Cape Town to denounce the text, signed but not yet in force, which it describes as a law on “racial quotas”.
“Some 600,000 people will lose their jobs because they don’t have the right skin colour or because they live and work in the wrong regions,” said its leader John Steenhuisen.
Thirty years after the end of apartheid, South Africa remains the most unequal country in the world. Almost one in two black South Africans was unemployed at the start of 2023, while unemployment was just 9.5% among whites, according to official figures.
The new law will require companies with more than 50 employees to reflect the demographics of the region in which they operate and explain how they intend to achieve this. It also allows the government to set quantified targets for specific sectors.
Gareth Ackerman, chairman of supermarket chain Pick n Pay, accuses the law of undermining employers whose workforce does not reflect racial demographics: “It would put a lot of qualified people out of work and replace them with unqualified people,” he said recently.
The most powerful union considers the controversy exaggerated. “It’s a rational law, not the big monster the DA presents,” said COSATU spokesman Matthew Parks.
According to a recent study, whites make up less than 10% of the 60 million South Africans but hold more than 60% of leadership positions.