DURBAN - Managers at the eThekwini Municipality have lashed out at the prospect of an employment equity bill being passed that would prevent Indian, white or coloured people from taking up senior positions.
The bill, which is in its draft stage, would replace the 2014-2018 bill that had identified over-representation of Indian men in senior management as an issue that needed to be addressed.
“Moving into a new period, it is necessary to indicate that the commitment of the employer is to continue with the targets and goals of the previous plans to bring about diversity within each occupational level,” reads the memorandum.
While querying the bill with eThekwini’s Human Resources (HR) department, a manager was told that the three race groups would be excluded from grade 14-25 (senior management) positions.
“We already see merit is no longer important to the municipality because it has become the norm to promote unqualified individuals based on race,” said the manager who asked not to be named.
“Yet people who have been around for more than 20 years, with adequate experience, are sidelined. If this bill makes provisions to sideline certain race groups, we will fight it.”
Other employees interviewed said if the bill was passed, they would take the matter to the constitutional court.
“It will be an utter travesty for employees who have worked hard over the years and who will face no chance of promotion,” said one head of department.
City manager, Sipho Nzuza, said it was premature to comment as the bill was in the draft stage.
He said the city planned to increase female representation, irrespective of colour.
He said people with disabilities would also be a focus area.
“We would not pass something that’s unconstitutional and it would still need to go through council in any event. If the African race is under-represented in management then we would have to consider that as well but there is no cause for worry,” said Nzuza.
Political analyst Thabani Khumalo said affirmative action was introduced to give previously disadvantaged groups equal opportunities in the workplace, which included coloured, Indians and Africans. “We have seen many municipalities being exposed due to lack of skills and experience to address issues affecting residents. If the city felt there were imbalances among racial groups, they should fix it without having to pass bills that create tension. Politicians are failing to implement the right policies because they want to take decisions that make them popular but which collapses the municipality,” said Khumalo.
Frans Cronjé of the South African Institute for Race Relations (SAIRR) said after frequent visits to Durban recently, it was no surprise that something of this nature could happen.
“It’s an unfortunate development because Indians and coloureds faced a tough time under apartheid and played a fundamental role to get the country out of it. If such a bill is approved, it will be an insult to them,” said Cronje.
The South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) said if there were too many Indian, white or coloured managers in senior positions, the issue did need to be addressed.
But there will have to be consultation, said Samwu’s regional deputy secretary, Nkosinathi Zuma.
Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said it would be against the constitution to exclude specific races from senior positions.
“This bill is not a by-law. The city cannot have unique labour laws which are contrary to the constitution. I doubt the municipality intends to propose something unconstitutional. Labour laws are standardised and every employer is obliged to comply,” said Mabaso.
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