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The quotas question

Aug 24 2012 07:39 Mzwandile Jacks

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LAST Sunday, I woke up to browse through the Fin24 website.

As I perused the latest updates on the Marikana mine carnage and other news, my eyes landed on a headline asserting what might be one of the most historic and transformational pieces of news of the year.

Not news that the department of trade and industry would this week approve the revised broad-based black economic empowerment Codes of Good Practice. No.

This headline was abundantly bigger: SAA lifts ban on white cadets.

As an experienced financial journalist, you can picture my instinctive retort: "Wow, what a great step for the economy!"

You see, as a financial journalist I know how racial dissonance can lead to political instability and hurt the economy of any country.

Economists and analysts tell me that South Africa's racial requirements are not good for growth.

Remember, very few international companies can invest in a country where people do not get employed based on their ability but on their skin colour.

Economic growth is more impactful when it is all-inclusive.

According to the South African Airways (SAA) article posted on Fin24, it was celebration time for potential cadets all round.
 
"Applications from white men would not be automatically rejected," it declared, and as I read on all I could think was that at least sanity is beginning to prevail in the country.

"This total ban on applications from whites goes against the letter and spirit of the constitution," Solidarity's deputy general secretary Dirk Hermann was quoted as saying by Rapport.

The ban was lifted last Friday after trade union Solidarity sent SAA a letter from its lawyers, urging it to drop its quota system for cadets.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) and Solidarity had reacted with outrage to news that whites would be excluded from the SAA programme.

I personally believe that employment quotas force many talented people to move to other countries in search of greener pastures, where their skin colour will not count against them.

This has happened in South Africa already; no wonder the country is facing a dire skills shortage. And what does this mean for the economy? It translates into stifled economic growth.

I know pro-quota lobbyists often say they do not care whether people leave this country because there are many graduates who can fill these positions.

Granted, there are unemployed graduates aplenty in the country. But the problem is that they lack relevant experience. Amid those who cannot go to other countries, several that remain here embrace a certain resentment.

Defeating disparities of the past should not only be at the detriment of those who can make a meaningful input to the economy.

Equality means nothing when there is weaker economic growth.

It is understood that the country's charters have stymied the economy, forcing overseas companies to look at other countries for valuable investment.

There is no reason that Angola and Mozambique can attract more foreign direct investment than South Africa, which has infrastructure that can match that of some of the most developed countries.

Companies in South Africa cannot employ the maximum number of workers because rigid labour laws and having to meet all these quotas requirements make hiring staff an onerous exercise.

Employers are discouraged and there is no one to grow the South African economy.

When I was in my teens, my Uncle Bonakele used to say all South Africans needed to fight everything that could be perceived as racism with all their might.

Uncle Bonakele died more than 20 years ago, but he came to mind as I was going over the SAA quota story.

Racial inclusiveness will go a long way towards helping the country’s economic growth. Let us all - DA, Solidarity, the ANC and ordinary citizens - fight for racial inclusivity.

 - Fin24

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saa  |  equality  |  sa economy
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