Johannesburg - Aptitude, and not just race, had to be considered by SA Airways (SAA) when it selected cadet pilots, the FW de Klerk Foundation said on Thursday.
It was understandable that SAA wanted to make its flight decks reflect the country's demographics, said the foundation's Jacques du Preez. However, the state-owned airline also had to consider other factors when selecting candidates.
"It must ensure that ability... is given sufficient weighting in its employment decisions. The relative aptitude, ability and qualifications of applicants must play a central role in SAA's employment decisions, regardless of race or gender," he said.
The DA also expressed its concern on Thursday. "Our economy is dependent on the airline industry, especially in the creation and retention of jobs," said Democratic Alliance MP Natasha Michael.
"We must therefore extend opportunities to participate in the airline industry to all South Africans, regardless of race," said Michael.
She said it was of the utmost importance that South Africans honour their past, "but equally, we must be allowed to own our future".
On Monday, SAA announced that 40 candidates had qualified for its cadet pilot programme: 10 were black men, four black women, nine coloured men, one coloured woman, seven Indian men, two Indian women, and seven white women.
Du Preez said the first requirement had to be for the candidates to be excellent pilots, irrespective of their race.
"It must consider the prohibition against unfair discrimination on the grounds of race and gender in section nine (four) of the Constitution and the requirement to prove, in terms of section nine (five), that each instance of discrimination is fair."
He said SAA should consider section 16 (four) of the Employment Equity Act. The section stated that employers "are not required to take any decision... that would establish an absolute barrier to the prospective or continued employment of people whether or not they are from designated groups".