It is unlikely that South Africa will see an end to affirmative action in the near future, the government’s official spokesperson said in London.
Themba Maseko conceded that the government may have made mistakes in the way it has implemented the policy, but said that as long as the majority of South Africa’s companies remain in white hands and “white managers do not see the need for black skills” affirmative action will remain necessary.
In recent months many commentators and organisations have called for a “sunset clause” on affirmative action so that what most people agree is a morally justifiable policy will not eventually translate into a type of reverse apartheid. But the government does not consider such a clause likely.
“I don’t think in the near future we will see a situation where government says affirmative action will end in December, year X. I think when we begin to see a change in the mindset of all people who are involved in South Africa, including owners of white companies . . . in fact, maybe when we stop talking about white and black companies, the need for affirmative action will cease,” said Maseko.
However, Maseko admitted that government needed to revisit how the policy was being implemented in order to prevent minority groups from feeling alienated.
“(The way we are implementing affirmative action) is leading to the perception that when we are defining people as black, we are now excluding coloured and Indian people,” said Maseko.
The way affirmative action has been implemented has also led to the alienation of white South Africans, “especially young white South Africans, who are beginning to feel that there is no scope or future for them in this country”, he said.
“This clearly indicates to me that in the way we are implementing the policy, or perhaps in the way we are communicating it, we are beginning to create the perception that as a country we don’t value white skills. It’s a wrong perception.”
Maseko was in London to participate in a South African investment conference organised by Old Mutual. He also spoke at a networking event for South Africans working in the financial industry in the City of London on Friday night.
“We as a country have to make it very clear to people that affirmative action is a good policy and we will continue implementing it, but it will not be implemented to the exclusion of white people.
“So what we might need to do back in South Africa is create some kind of guidelines on how affirmative action should be implemented in such a way that we don’t end up giving the impression that there is no room for skilled white people.
“We might even reach a point, I don’t know, in the future where government in the guidelines could set targets for the number of white people to be appointed in government and in jobs in the private sector so that we make white South Africans feel this is their country.”