Date: Sun, 9 Jul 1995 21:01:54 -0200
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (tim jenkin)
To: Multiple recipients of list <email@example.com>
Subject: Mayibuye July 1995
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Fair Nourishment For All
By Mziwakhe Hlangani, in Mayibuye, Vol. 6, no. 3
Affirmative action is frequently misrepresented, sometimes deliberately, by
people resistant to positive change. Mziwakhe Hlangani samples some of the
views on the subject.
Albie Sachs, a former ANC NEC member and now constitutional court judge,
describes the affirmative action 'contradiction' in his paper 'Affirmative
action and the new constitution' thus: "There's an old saying: one person's
meat is another person's poison. So it is with affirmative action. For
millions of South Africans affirmative action means advance to a better
life, a long overdue chance to come into their own and start enjoying the
good things the country has to offer. For others, particularly those
leading comfortable lives today, it signifies a new form of discrimination
and injustice, a vengeful form of juggling around with race quotas so as to
threaten their livelihoods and security."
Sachs says that is what apartheid was all about. The real approach is that
what is good for the majority can and should be good for the minority as
well. The rich and poor, black and white all want peace, prosperity,
progress and justice, which mean the country can give not meat for some,
poison for others, but fair nourishment for all, he says.
The ANC position on affirmative action points out that real victory for the
people meant being able to deliver - not just promises and abstractions -
but houses, jobs, electricity, water, schools and clinics, real freedom and
real choices in the fullest sense.
The SA Communist Party (SACP) rejects the notion that affirmative action
means the promotion of individuals - blacks, more specifically Africans -
into managerial posts and into share holding. Affirmative action, it says,
is about extending roads and electricity to marginalised rural communities.
It is about developing an extensive, state-run primary health network, and
introducing a free, compulsory ten years of education to all children.,
giving all old people an equal and living pension.
Affirmative action should be seen primarily as the empowerment of social
groups, sectors and classes which have been historically oppressed. It is
about collective empowerment, not the promotion of individuals. It is a
massive programme of job creation for the millions of unemployed and
empowering women through adult education and the provision of creches:
giving workers increasing powers over decision making on the shop floor.
SACP deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin says once you speak of
affirmative action in this way, you are on the right track. "Notice that
you are then underlining not just racial oppression, but also class
oppression and massive inequalities between rural and urban areas."
Affirmative action in this sense, understands that overcoming decades of
racial, class and gender oppression will not be ended simply by formal
rights, by constitutional equality for all. Nor will these things be ended
simply by creating a new middle class of blacks. The active and purposeful
engagement of a democratic state and of progressive formations in civil
society is essential and not just formal change or cosmetic promotions is
required to overcome the legacy of oppression, the SACP says.
The Black Management Forum (BMF) has proposed in its affirmative action
blueprint a policy in favour of blacks designed to ensure the "reversal of
discrimination" as opposed to "reverse discrimination".
"Affirmative action targets should be made enforceable by law and monitored
by an Equal Opportunities Commission with quasi-legislative powers within
the parameters of an Affirmative Action Bill and an Affirmative Action
Statute," it says.
The forum also suggest that "coercive laws" as opposed to voluntary
programmes are required to eradicate social and economic inequalities. The
negative and emotive reaction to quotas could be avoided through
consultation with all affected parties and the careful prior evaluation of
all relevant human resource data and techniques. It also points out that
quotas should only be implemented if negotiated targets are not met without
The BMF also contends that prescribed standards for job entry are sometimes
used to retain the status quo and block the employment of specific cultural
groups. It proposes that international benchmarks should be examined to
redefine job entry criteria and performance measurement.
ANC NEC member Frene Ginwala, in her discussion paper, 'Possibilities for
women in the future South Africa', argues that the country's Bill of Rights
must go beyond political and civil rights and provide for second generation
Particular attention needs to be paid to the ability of women to claim
effective equality with men and to claim human rights on an equal basis
with men, she maintains. The attainment of substantive equality requires a
clear understanding of how society is hierarchically structured on the
basis of different combinations of race gender and class. To be effective,
the concept of equality must be rooted in the conditions and experiences of
"It is important that the principle of equality in our new constitution
must be such as will provide effective and not token equality for women. To
do this, we have to address both the material disadvantages and the full
complexity of women's oppression. This means that a concept of formal
equality or equal treatment before the law which allows the law to treat
persons in the same way will not deliver equality because it does not
recognize that we do not all start from the same place in society," she