Hearing on Draft White Paper on Affirmative Action Policy in the Public Service

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report





Oral submissions were presented by:

Mr Johnson, chairperson of the National Workers' Union

Public Servants Association of South Africa (Appendix 1)

Ms Marais, co-author of "Corporate Hyenas at Work" (Appendix 2)

Ms Abrahams-Willis, chairperson of the Affirmative Action Committee at the S.A. Cultural History Museum (Appendix 3)

Ms Meyer, Legislation Monitor of the South African Human Rights Commission (Appendix 4)

Ms Lagadien, representative of the Disabled People of South Africa.(Appendix 5)

COSATU written submission (Appendix 6)

The hearing of evidence began with Mr Johnson, who was the spokesperson for the National Workers' Union (NWU). NWU felt that the Draft White Paper on Affirmative Action gave no clear instructions on how the policy would be implemented. The organisation commented that the strategy was weak. Added to that, the Draft White Paper did not have sufficient information regarding the pension of disabled employees and there was also not enough emphasis on the gender issue in the paper.

Mr Mkhize (ANC) asked Mr Johnson to clarify the issue regarding racial classification. Mr Johnson said that in the old TBVC States, the management used to be "black" and in the old RSA, the management used to be "white". He said that the old overall policy had to be redressed and cover all groups of people. The Department of Public Service and Administration responded that the Draft White Paper on Affirmative Action had to be seen as subordinate to the Employment Equity Bill and that it was a broad policy framework. Also in future, progress reports and plans on affirmative action would have to be sent to the Department of Labour by employers. The Department acknowledged that the issue regarding racial discrimination would have to be re-worked.

Mr Louwrens, Deputy General Manager of the Public Servants Association of South Africa (PSA) addressed the Committee The PSA supported the Affirmative Action programme envisaged in the Constitution. The Dispute Resolution Mechanism should, however, be added to the Draft White Paper. PSA felt that paragraph 1.8 of the Draft White Paper was not clearly defined. A holistic approach was needed regarding representivity and it was an ongoing process. Also, paragraph 2.7 was very idealistic. Funding and the budget had to be negotiated. PSA recommended that paragraphs 2.6 and 2.7 be redrafted to include proper financial negotiations. In paragraph 3.4, a single profile was required of employees and not separate ones.

Mr Dexter (ANC) said that the PSA made no mention of gender or disability in page 2 of their submission. He felt that the PSA focussed too generally on the Draft White Paper. Mr Dexter said that the comments were merely a critique of the draft and no suggestions were given.

A representative from the Department wanted clarity on the budget aspect that the PSA mentioned in their submission. Mr Louwrens said that paragraphs 2.6 and 2.7 should be brought in line with paragraph 3.23. The chairperson, Mr Manie, concurred with that point. The Department also wanted clarity on the profile issue that was brought up in the PSA submission. Mr Louwrens said that a department should have a single profile. However the Draft White Paper mentioned a profile drawn up for the disadvantaged group and a separate one for those who fall outside the target group. The chairperson interjected at that point by saying that the PSA might have misunderstood the issue as the draft paper did mention one profile only.

Ms Marais, a consultant and co-author of the book, Corporate Hyenas at Work, appeared before the committee in her personal capacity. Her main focus was the issue surrounding retrenched employees. She said that they should be included in the disadvantaged groupings because those between the ages of 34 and 52 years old experienced great difficulty in finding employment again. They suffered from low self-esteem and depression during such a period especially if they were the breadwinner as well. According to Ms Marais, companies were hesitant to hire retrenched workers.

Mr Mgidi (ANC) wanted to know why retrenched workers should be given the same treatment as disadvantaged groups. Mr Dexter added to that by saying that retrenched people were a vague grouping as some of them did find work shortly afterwards. Hence the description of that group (retrenched workers) had to be more specific. Furthermore, would it be correct to give retrenched workers the same treatment as those who had not worked for twenty years, for example? Ms Marais reiterated that retrenched workers felt worthless because of their circumstances.

Ms Abrahams-Willis, chairperson of the Affirmative Action Committee of the South African Cultural History Museum said that her organisation promoted and supported the Draft White Paper. She wanted to know from the department what the mandatory obligation was for state-aided institutions and parastatals to participate in the Affirmative Action Policy. The department said that they would get back to the committee about that point.

Ms Meyer, representing the South African Human Rights Commission, agreed that Affirmative Action had to be integrated with Human Resources and Businesses. The organisation did have a problem with co-determination. The Draft White Paper seemed to agree on a top-down process but the South African Human Rights Commission wanted it to be a co-determined agreement.

Ms Lagadien represented the Disabled People of South Africa (DPSA). Most of the points mentioned were based on the Integrated National Disability Strategy (White paper on Disability). The DPSA felt that affirmative action was important in the equalisation of employment. The DPSA focused on a number of points in the paper:

1) The DPSA felt that the definition of disabled people was not in line with the standard definition of disability. Thus the definition in the paper had to be withdrawn.

2) The clause "more productive service..." if viewed in terms of numeric targets, would be discriminatory against disability.

3) Concerning numeric targets, a parallel process had been drawn up for disabled people.

4) DPSA mentioned that no research or consultation was undertaken in the Affirmative Action Plan. The organisation recommended that necessary research be undertaken as well as comparative international studies.

5) The management conducting the review of disabled people had to be knowledgeable about the subject. The varying needs of all disabilities had to be looked into.

6) The probation criteria for disabled people should promote equity.

Mr Chalklen, Director of the Status of Disabled Persons at the Deputy President's office, reiterated the importance of the definition of disabled people. He mentioned that unless disabled people were mentioned in employment advertisements, they would not apply. Hence employers should mention disabled people as well. Ms Rantho, National chairperson of DPSA, said that if the same standards were not imposed on disabled people, then the notion that disabled people were unproductive would not be eradicated. At that point, the chairperson said that both points on productivity (those mentioned by Ms Lagadien and Ms Rantho) were important.

The chairperson ended the meeting by emphasising the Committee's commitment to the Affirmative Action Policy. He said that would be the focus this year.

Appendix 1: Public Servants Association of South Africa




These comments are based on the third draft White Paper dated 14 December 1997 and made available by the DPSA The PSA obviously reserves its rights regarding any changes in subsequent draft white papers which may be issued at a later date.

General remarks

The PSA supports representivity in the Public Service as envisaged in the Constitution. As such any document, White Paper or any other effort that endeavours to clarify the orderly introduction and application of creating representivity in the Public Service is welcomed

The comments contained in this document are aimed at enhancing the policy as contained in the White Paper. In general, the DPSA must also be congratulated in the time and effort that went into the production of this document.

Dispute resolution mechanisms

While mentioning that disputes may occur in the application to enhance representivity programmes, the White Paper fails to give a dear indication that suitable dispute resolution mechanisms must be included in any such programmes or plans. While it can be argued that the labour legislation in any way includes dispute resolution mechanisms, proper reference to internal dispute resolution should be included in more detail. If this is not done dispute resolution mechanisms may be ignored in the construction of plans for representivity and affirmative which may lead to the undermining of the execution or application of the intended plans or programmes. It is therefore also necessary that departments and provinces are sensitised to the need for dispute resolution mechanisms.

General remarks on specific paragraphs of the draft

Paragraph 1.8

As point of departure we have to point out that according to the Constitution it is required -

(a) that the Public Service must be representative of the South African people; and

(b) that equality must be observed in general in respect of all persons and in respect of which principle redress is required for the disadvantaged.

In our view the White Paper fails to clearly identifies the above two requirements as being separate issues and which should be implemented and be guided by different principles, plans and programmes. However, it is endeavoured to avoid the problem by simply identifying all persons in specific racial groupings as being disadvantaged. This approach is regarded as controversial and open for attack. It also portrays a political interest in long term racial discrimination instead of objectivity towards achieving the constitutional requirements. The White Paper thus fails to identify the achievement of racial representivity on the one hand and the redress of the disadvantaged as two separate processes. It furthermore fails to address the maintenance of representivity as a ongoing process for all population groupings and otherwise does not provide an answer on how to deal with affirmative action as instrument to promote the plight of the disadvantaged within a properly representative Public Service.

While mentioning that departments and provinces must also develop more refined targets to deal with specific inequalities within particular national and provincial departments, occupation groups, levels and geographic regions, this statement or approach is not followed up elsewhere in the White Paper. We regard it as essential that all occupations and groups, levels etc are explained in more detail in the White Paper so as to underline the fact that, while concentrating on the disadvantaged groups, the Public Service must be representative of the South African people.

It is felt that a holistic approach to representivity should be included in the White Paper and that, in its present form, the White Paper concentrates only on affirmative action for the disadvantaged while we understand affirmative action and representivity as a continuous process that may, at a later stage also refer to other groups than the disadvantaged groups identified at the moment. As regards representivity in especially some of the provinces, it can be stated that this goal has already been achieved and the question which then arises is how to correctly promote true representivity and how to incrementally apply affirmative action for those who are truly disadvantaged such as women and the disabled.

In the above-mentioned regard it follows that representivity of all and affirmative action for the disadvantaged will be continuous processes that will not terminate once the "disadvantaged racial groups", which blanket approach is questioned, have been accommodated in the Public Service. In the future the present over represented groups, where still applicable, may be under represented which will again require steps towards representivity to once again comply with the constitutional requirements of a Public Service representative of the society. In this regard we propose that the White Paper also recognise that affirmative action is a continuous process which will not terminate at some stage in the future and which shall have to be applied later to all racial groupings. The same applies to affirmative action as an instrument of redress for the disadvantaged.

Paragraph 2.7

In this paragraph it is mentioned that affirmative action programmes, and it is presumed programmes for representivity, must be funded primarily by reorienting a portion of the "significant amounts of money already being spent on working accommodation and facilities, working benefits, training and development, and from savings from eliminating waste and inefficiency".

We regard the statement as totally idealistic and out of line with the realities of the current financial position of the Public Service. If the intention is, as indicated in this paragraph, that funds must be redirected from current funds that is budgeted for the mentioned purposes then, in most instances, it forms part of the so-called led matters of mutual interest which must be negotiated.

It is therefore suggested that paragraphs 2.6 and 2.7 should be redrafted and that the basis of funding representivity and affirmative action programmes be clarified and sorted out in consultation with the Minister of Finance.

In any event, we regard the approach outlined in these two paragraphs as unworkable and unrealistic. The only possible manner in which such programmes can be funded would be by means of specific budgeted amounts within national departments and provinces once the cost of such programmes has been calculated.

Paragraph 3.4

Under the heading Employees Profile it is mentioned that a profile in respect of the target group must be drawn up as well as a separate profile of employees outside the target groups.

The logic of drawing up two separate employees' profiles is not clearly understood. Surely, to get a full and holistic picture of the employee profile in a national department or province, a single profile depicting the full extent of disadvantaged or target groups and people outside such target groups is necessary. Once such a comprehensive profile has been drawn up conclusions or deductions can be made and targets set for affirmative action programmes and representivity. On its own a profile of the target group or groups means nothing if it is not possible to compare such a profile with the profile of the department or province and as such, we argue that a single profile of a department or province is essential and not as indicated in this paragraph, two separate profiles.

We therefore suggest that the opening sentence of the paragraph under the heading Employee Profile must be changed as follows: "Departments and provinces must maintain a full and comprehensive Employees Profile, updated annually, in the respect of all its workers but divided into the different target groups, as well as workers outside target groups, on: ... ". The last sentence under this subheading should therefore be deleted. We submit that only by drawing up a comprehensive profile will it be possible to determine to what extent a particular national department or province complies with the constitutional vision of a representative Public Service and to what extent the disadvantaged have be accommodated.

Date: 9 February 1998

Appendix 2: Ms Marais, co-author of "Corporate Hyenas at Work"



Authors of "Corporate Hyenas at Work"


· That the description "Affirmative Action" be changed to Corrective Development.

· That the following group be included in the Corrective Development Programme as a disadvantaged group: impoverished, disempowered, displaced workers - meaning workers, between the age group 34 - 52 years who have been retrenched or unfairly dismissed with total severance and pension packages less than R100 000,001.

· The value of training, mentorship and real commitment cannot be underestimated and the word "mentorship" should receive the same prominence as training in the Draft White Paper.

· We recommend that a more descriptive phrase for the term "black" people be used such as "previously disadvantage groups" but that it also include the word "proportionately" to avoid group preferences.

· That demographic and regional proportions of representation be applied in the Corrective Development Programme to enhance the principle of community-based proportions

· As for allocation of bursaries the Public Sector should keep the shortage in mind and allocate the funds for studies in areas where the shortage of Corrective Development candidates warrants it most. This is a principle that should form part of a corrective Corrective Development programme.

· We recommend that we talk about a "corrective, equitable employment environment", emphasising the fact that the employment environment needs the balance to be restored.

· We recommend that to the phrase "low level work" be replaced by the phrase "junior positions".

· That the establishment of an effective and efficient public service be the overriding principle for key positions when restructuring the public service and introducing a Corrective Development Programme but that the Corrective Development Programme always receive priority

· That the Corrective Development Programme be linked with the national projects like RDP and GEAR in determining priorities and also in evaluating the process.

· That training and other service priorities override the ideals of providing accommodation and travel schemes for budget purposes.

Appendix 3: Affirmative Action Committee at the S.A. Cultural History Museum


Honourable Chairperson, distinguished Members of Parliament, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for this opportunity. My name is Gabeba Abrahams-Willis. I am an archaeologist at the South African Cultural History Museum, have been for the past 17 years. I am Vice-Chairperson of the majority union at our Museum, Public and Allied Workers Union as well as the Chairperson of the recently re-established Affirmative Action Committee at the Museum. It is in my capacity as Chairperson of the Affirmative Action Committee at the S A Cultural History Museum that I am here today, to demonstrate our support for the Draft White Paper on Affirmative Action in the Public Service.

This Paper is very timeous to us at the Museum, and we intend to utilize it straight-away. What we find particularly useful is the step-by-step implementation procedure outlined. We have, however, one major question mark and I will keep it brief. The White Paper makes specific reference to the Public Service. Our Institution, like myriad of others, e.g. parastatals, Commissions, so-called semi-state or state-aided organizations, falls outside the ambit of this White Paper, unless these can be specifically included. The question is, how will the White Paper in its present format impact on the large number of organizations which fall in this grey are?

Our recommendation is:

That specific inclusion must be made of parastatals, semi-state, state-aided etc organizations in the White Paper on Affirmative Action in the Public Service.

This would be an immense assistance to us and would clarify what our modus operandae should be. I thank you once again, and wish to express that we promote and support this White Paper.

Submission made by:

Dr G Abrahams-Willis

Chairperson, Affirmative Action Committee, S A Cultural History Museum.

Prepared by Dr G Abrahams-Willis, Mr C Kortjie, Mr A Riffel

Appendix 4: South African Human Rights Commission


The South African Human Rights Commission

February 1998


The Constitution guarantees to all the fundamental right of equality. In addition, it recognizes that measures to redress the effects of unfair discrimination, and to ensure freedom from discrimination are necessary to remedy the deep and pervasive inequalities which exist in South Africa, in order that dignity and the achievement of equality become realizable for all South Africans.

Equality is necessary for all person and groups in society, and in all spheres: social, political and economic. The elimination of unfair discrimination in employment, together with the adoption of positive measures to redress imbalances, is probably one of most important and key components in the achievement of substantial equality. Employment equity is probably the most important process in the transformation of society, and the achievement of substantive equality.

The State has embarked on the adoption of measures which go some way to addressing the inequalities brought about by unfair discrimination. Anti-discrimination legislation is in the process of being developed. In the arena of employment discrimination, the Employment Equity Bill has been released for comment; in addition, the Department of Public Service and Administration released a Green Paper on a Conceptual Framework for Affirmative Action and the Management of Diversity in the Public Service.

This Green Paper highlighted the need for a clear and consistent policy on affirmative action in the Public Service, and further indicated that such a policy should be integrated into the existing business and human resource programmes. A workable, coherent and effective affirmative action programme is critical for the Public Service, not only for the value of its outcome, but also to set examples and set precedents for the private sector. Both the private sector and the public at large will be looking at the Public Service to see what its affirmative action policy will be, and how it will be implemented. The State must, and must be seen to, play a developmental role in the redress of past imbalances.


The White Paper on Affirmative Action in the Public Service has been developed in response to the demand from national and provincial departments for clear direction and guidance on the steps to be taken in the implementation of affirmative action. It is crucial that any affirmative action programme be placed within the broad framework provided by the Employment Equity Bill, and is consonant with its principles and procedures.

The Commission would like to comment on some aspects of the White Paper.

At the outset, the Commission commends the emphasis placed in both the Green Paper, and this White Paper on the necessity of integrating affirmative action programmes into existing strategies. In order to transform the Public Service, a comprehensive human resource development approach, aimed at the overall achievement of employment equity is required. An affirmative action policy which stands separately, or is imposed will not meet with success, as the ethos of affirmative action needs to inform the basic principles.

The Commission would like to raise two criticisms of the White Paper as a whole. These are around the issues of co-determination of affirmative action plans, and cost effectiveness.

Co -determination

· The Commission commends the commencement of a process to translate theory into practice; the creation of a policy of affirmative action is important, but its implementation and the realization of its purposes are critical.

· However, while the Commission agrees that it is important to provide guidance on the actual development and implementation of affirmative action, the process of the development of the actual plan must be one of co-determination. One of the underlying principles of the Employment Equity Bill is co-determination: programmes must be co-determined by all stakeholders; the creation of programmes should also be employee driven.

· The Paper sets out that communication, openness and participation are key principles in affirmative action, in order for a programme to be supported by a workforce. In describing the process of the development of the plan, the White Paper makes mention of the fact that employees will be the "main source of suggestions", and further that the plan should be drawn up on the basis of a "organisation-wide consultative exercise

· However, consultation is insufficient to constitute an employee-driven process. No mention made of workforce participation in the actual preparation and development of the plan itself. This participation is fundamental; indeed it is not only participation but joint responsibility and involvement. This "co-ownership" of the programme itself, is established at the outset via joint determination of the actual plan.

· This is not made sufficiently clear in the White Paper. Without employee participation in the development process, the affirmative action plan will be top-down, and this approach will not only be ultimately unsuccessful, but will not be consonant with the principles of the Employment Equity Bill.

Cost effectiveness

· The Commission notes that in addition to the achievement of an effective affirmative action programme, there is another goal of achieving an efficient and cost-effective Public Service. The White paper states that any costs involved in affirmative action must be weighed against the cost of not taking affirmative action, as manifested in high staff turnovers and the under-utilisation of human resources. These "costs" are described as those of recruitment and advancement of the designated groups.

· However, the paper goes on to say that affirmative action programmes will be funded from the re-orientation of monies already allocated to working accommodation and facilities, benefits, training and development.

· This is problematic. Examples of two areas which are relevant to the achievement of substantial equality in the workplace, are the provision of appropriate child care facilities, and the accessibility of training programmes. It is likely that these issues would be raised in the development of a programme.

· They are examples of programmes which would require significant financial commitment, and funds over and above those already allocated would need to be made available.


The Commission notes that this is a working draft, and that it has been clearly indicated that it is the commencement of a process, which will develop policy and guidelines. As such it is hoped that these issues will be addressed and clarified in a further draft of the White Paper.

Appendix 5: Disabled People of South Africa




Thank you for giving us the opportunity once again to make a brief but important submission to this WP. We have forwarded a full and comprehensive submission to the Department.

Although we did do a comparitive reading of it with regards to our previous submissions, we will not go into it at this time. It does, however, suffice to say that our concerns previously mentioned were not included. We do trust that they have been channelled in the right direction with the aim of further discussions and negotiations.


What we would like to do today is to draw attention to the White Paper on an Integrated National Disability Strategy and seek to identify corolation or indeed, the absence of it.

Affirmative Action (AA) is an important measure for disabled people in terms of the Equalization of Opportunities as stated in the White Paper on an Integrated National Disability Strategy (page 42). DPSA therefor commends the effort on the part of the Department of Public Service and Administration to develop a set of mandatory requirements for the development of AA Programmes within the Public Sector.

The important points, in summary form that we would like to focus on here are:

1. Definition

2. equitable comparison and evaluation of productivity

3. numeric targets

4. research

5. Human resources planning

6. Job specification

7. Probation

8. communication and participation

9. guiding principles

10. management practice review


A. In this section an attempt is made at defining 'disability'.


This is an unclear definition.

It is not in line with any of the Universally accepted definitions i.e. World Health Organization (WHO) or Disabled People's International (DPI).

It excludes people with sensory and mental disabilities.


A study/workshop to define disability for the purposes of employment in South Africa should have preceded this White Paper (WP). Since this was not done, and this 'definition' offered by the WP is unacceptable, DPSA proposes that it be withdrawn.

B. The statement in the same paragraph that "black rural women suffered proportionately more", also apply to disabled people in rural areas. The same principal used in seeking solutions must therefore apply.


This concept of productivity can disadvantage disabled employees if viewed purely in terms of their numeric output against that of non-disabled employees.


As stated in the White Paper on an Integrated National Disability Strategy (WPINDS) (page 44), positive measures should be implemented which will ensure that performance and productivity of disabled employees are evaluated on an equitably comparative basis with non-disabled employees.


In addition to the guiding principles mentioned in this section, DPSA SUGGESTS that the following be added to guide the implementation of AA and programme development as it relates to disabled people.

• inter-departmental/intersectoral/Co-ordination

• Vocational Integration

• Equity

• Barrier free design

• Client-centred

• Capacity Building

• Personnel Training

• Review


As departments endeavour to meet numeric targets, the danger exists that the promotion and implementation of reasonable and equitable work environments, as stated in the WPINDS ("Employment Equity in the Open Labour Market"), will be compromised (page 43).


While numeric targets are being strove for, a parallel process to develop the suggestions in the relevant section in the WPINDS should be engaged in. This section must be studied and considered and the relevant points should be developed in consultation with the relevant departments and with organizations of disabled people.


Point 3 under this section refers to "financial and other resources to be allocated to achieving AA objectives and targets".

There is no evidence that suggests that the necessary research was conducted, or consultation entered into, to ascertain the extent of the "financial and other resources" needed to provide the necessary "reasonable accommodation" required for the implementation of AA for disabled employees and job seekers.

As a mandatory requirement, and a minimum that AA programmes should contain, this is a serious oversight that will hinder the implementation of AA for disabled employees and job seekers.


DPSA recommends that the necessary research should be conducted and consultation entered into so that the responsible officers have correct information to enable them to formulate implementable AA plans.

DPSA also recommends that the department of Public Service and Administration conduct an international comparative study for the expressed purpose of drawing on successful implementation of AA for disabled employees in other countries thereby eliminating the need to re-invent the wheel. The findings should then be adapted to suit the South African conditions.


The people responsible for conducting reviews must be knowledgeable about disability issues and/or utilize the skills and knowledge of disabled people's organizations.

DPSA would like to draw special attention to the following points mentioned in this section:

1. Human resources planning

Human Resource Development (HRD), as stated in the WPINDS (page 45), is essential to the success of the employment policy recommendations and the survival of disabled people. Therefor, in planning the human resources of our country, particular attention should be paid to the varying needs of all disabled people with all disabilities to avoid uniform planning.

2. Job specifications

These need to be carefully considered and worded so that it does not pose an unnecessary barrier to the disabled employee/job seeker. Only the factors crucial to executing a job must be mentioned in a job specification for example, if a driver's license is not absolutely essential to the execution of the job, do not mention it.

3. Probation

Criteria for probation must be developed while considering the varying capabilities and needs of all disabled people with all disabilities in order to promote equity.


In order for all employees in the department to be comfortable and participate effectively and openly, each department will have to invest in diversity training using the expertise of the organized disability rights movement.


This section refers to "cost-effective AA projects".

If this is not explained explicitly it could be a barrier to the employment of disabled people. For example, in order to maintain "cost-effectiveness", the employment provision in terms of "reasonable accommodation" might be sacrificed when money needs to be spent on equipment or to make structural changes to places of work.


This section states that the success of AA programmes depends on the extent to which the three target groups use it positively.


In order for this to happen, the department must play an active and pro-active role in awareness raising with regards to the programmes they offer. The environment must also be accessible so that disabled people can feel free to communicate their needs. For example, deaf people must know that they will have access to an interpreter.


In this section it states that employees outside of the three target groups have an important role to play in supporting AA programmes. It goes on to mention examples of what they should do.


Experience has shown that if left up to the goodwill of the individual alone, the integration of disabled people will not be realized. In this case therefor, AA programmes will not be successful unless obligatory measures are instituted. DPSA suggests that internal policies must be developed to obligate compliance. This measure must be implemented in conjunction with diversity training.


Section 4.5 mentions the fact that implementation might be hampered as the departments encounter centrally-controlled rules and regulations and that the Dept. of Public Service and Administration, in conjunction with other required departments, will seek to abolish or amend these.


DPSA believes that an investigation to identify potentially handicapping policies should start immediately and that amendments to existing policies or the development of new ones should be in place as soon as possible.

The Dept. of Public Service and Administration should work with the DPSA as the organization has developed an active economic empowerment strategy for disabled people.


The unemployment of disabled people that leads to their economic underdevelopment is the most fundamental problem affecting them and their families. As stated in the WPINDS, the government has undertaken a few initiatives, since 1994, in an attempt to redress the situation in an affirmative and comprehensive manner.

The new Labour Relations Act (LRA) has introduced important changes but the provisions contained therein are not, on their own, sufficient to remove discriminatory practices, nor to support the creation of equal opportunities for disabled people.

Experiences in other countries have shown that it is necessary to enact legislation expressly designed to remove barriers that lead to discrimination against disabled people. Such legislation should also provide mechanisms to ensure that disabled people enjoy equal opportunities in the workplace. This should include for example AA programmes and processes to support diversity.

In this respect the Dept of Public Service and Administration has an extremely important role to play in ensuring employment equity for disabled people in the public sector.

DPSA welcomes this White Paper on AA in the Public Service and trust that the suggestions contained in this submission will be received in the spirit of constructive criticism.

Appendix 6: COSATU written submission





Correct approach to affirmative action

Fiscal framework

Principle of participation

Responsibility for Affirmative Action Programmes

Accountability for implementation


1. Introduction

COSATU welcomes the opportunity to address the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration on the Draft White Paper on Affirmative Action in the Public Service (hereafter the 'White Paper'). The hearings on the White Paper are conducted within the context of discussions on the Employment Equity Bill. The Employment Equity Bill has significant ramifications for all employers including the public sector. The Department of Public Service and Administration should be congratulated for taking a proactive step by developing this White Paper.

This submission is divided into two parts:

· A brief recap of COSATU's approach to affirmative action, and

· A critique of certain aspects of the White Paper, offering a number of proposals.

Members of the Committee are encouraged to read this submission in conjunction with the COSATU submission on the Green Paper preceding the White Paper (the Green Paper on a Conceptual Framework for Affirmative Action and Management of Diversity in the Public Service, hereafter the 'Green Paper').

2. COSATU's Vision on Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action is a necessary programme to redress the inequalities inherited from the previous dispensation. Apartheid inequalities in the labour market and society as a whole are well documented by several studies and needs no repetition here.1 It is imperative, however, to underline the fact that there is a close correlation between labour market inequalities and extra labour market inequities. For instance, unequal access to education reinforces employment disparities. The close relationship between labour market and extra labour market inequality provides a strong case for deliberate programmes to realise employment equity.

Accordingly, the repeal of discriminatory laws, though necessary, is not sufficient to achieve employment equity. The fact that inequality persists in South Africa in the absence of formal discrimination illustrates this argument. An effects-based-test of discrimination (raised in our submission on the Green Paper) is germane to continued effort to eradicate inequality and discrimination after the abolishment of formal inequality. In order to achieve this employers and all stakeholders are required to identify continuing patterns of discrimination even in the absence of discriminatory rules and practices. The assumption continues to be valid that South Africa's labour market, segmented so sharply along lines of race and gender, is a reflection of continuing and unequal employment patterns even in the absence of overt discrimination.

COSATU conceptualizes affirmative action to be an integral component of a programme to democratize and restructure the workplace. Hence, it goes beyond a narrow focus to achieve representation purely at the management echelon. Rather, an emphasis is placed on integrating affirmative action with a comprehensive programme for employment equity at all levels of the workplace. The effects of focusing solely on changing management structure will be to leave the status quo intact, albeit with the participation of some individuals from the historically disadvantaged. A comprehensive employment equity programme should be geared towards:

· Closing the wage gap;

· Flattening hierarchies;

· Ensuring accessibility of the workplace;

· Transformation of management practices and organisational culture;

· Review of employment practices; and

· Developing career paths through effective training and education.

Affirmative action in the public service will positively contribute to the transformation of the labour market through helping to resolve the skills shortage. An artificial shortage of skills (especially amongst black people) was created by unequal access to education and training in both the labour market and education system in general. This shortage of skills puts a handbrake on our economy and is not sustainable in the long term. Therefore by committing resources to education and training, the public sector contributes in no small measure to developing our human capital.

It is important also to identify the linkages between affirmative action policies aimed at private sector employment practices; and public sector transformation:

· The private and public sectors should be required to work within the same regulatory environment in order to avoid distortions and the self-fulfilling prophecy of so-called public sector inefficiency,

· the existence of effective affirmative action programmes should be a part of criteria to be met by the private sector in government procurement policy, and

· affirmative action has to be linked with service delivery, as for many years service delivery has continued to be skewed in favour of a racial minority. It is imperative that service delivery should be extended to historically disadvantaged communities.

Apart from the morality of combating historic inequalities, and achieving a diverse and representative workforce, there is an economic logic to implementing affirmative action programmes. Inequality has resulted in under-utilization of our productive forces, especially labour. Consequently, participation in the economy is distorted and skewed in favour of historically privileged minority. This distortion undermines economic growth and sustainable development.

There are forces, particularly in the Democratic Party and business community, who are attempting to create a paranoia about affirmative action. We hope that white South Africans do not allow themselves to be lead up a dead-end road by people who are seeking to win their votes by using scare tactics, just as the old National Party used "rooi-gevaar en swart-gevaar", Tony Leon's Democratic Party and their friends in business is now poisoning whites with "affirmative action-gevaar" and "transformation-gevaar".

Whites, and South Africans from other minority communities, must realise that their future lies with an expanded de-racialised economy. To be misled along a path of separatism and resistance to change at this juncture would be courting disaster. A non-racial society will only be built through corrective action which enables us to overcome our racist history. People who are trying to tell others that non-racialism is to be achieved through maintaining the status quo and leaving the inherited structures of privilege undisturbed are, indeed, trying to block off opportunities to the majority of people.

The tripartite alliance has never once wavered from the vision of a non-racial society. The DP's, therefore being disingenuous when it claims that "the ANC used the rhetoric of 'non-racialism' and reconciliation as big lies, primarily to diffuse any resistance by minorities until it had consolidated power".2 It is, in fact, parties from the old order who are trying to re-racialise South African politics in order to consolidate a white support base.

This is a dangerous and short-sighted route as it threatens to deepen South Africa's racial schisms. But, what must be stated clearly is that no amount of mischief by the DP or other minority parties will distract the tripartite alliance from its course of actively transforming South Africa into a non-racial, non-sexist democratic and prosperous society. We trust that our fellow South Africans of all races will find it in their hearts to participate in this transformation process, building the foundations for long term successes as a nation.

3. Addressing the White Paper

Correct approach to affirmative action

To a large extent the White Paper has incorporated most of the issues raised above. There are positive aspects of the White Paper that we welcome. It makes a strong case for affirmative action to be integrated into national and provincial departments core business and human resource management and development policies and practices. This shift of emphasis is essential to integrate affirmative action in the mainstream employment policy, rather than the perception that it is an add-on programme.

Unlike the Green Paper, the White Paper provides practical guidelines and mandatory requirements on designing and implementing affirmative action programmes. The Green Paper was, however, useful in developing a framework on affirmative action in the public service. It made a strong case for linking affirmative action with service delivery. This linkage is critical to redressing past inequalities in the manner in which services were delivered. We call on the Parliamentary Committee on Public Service to see to it that the final White Paper reinstate this emphasis.

In addition, there are several positive developments in the White Paper, which we would like to highlight:

· the White Paper spells out 'baseline targets' for affirmative action programmes beyond the timeframes set in the White Paper on Transformation of the Public Service which can have the additional benefit of serving as a model to the private sector as to how it should implement employment equity,

· the White Paper commits the public service to developing a more diverse management culture and management practice review. The transformation of organisation culture is essential for the success of employment equity programme. Organisational environments are often insensitive to race-gender-disability differences. Consequently, turnover and job dissatisfaction is high in such environments. Turnover amongst black employees appears to be high in the private sector and a similar trend is emerging in the public service. At the core of this problem is dissatisfaction with work culture, and management styles; and

· the White Paper appreciates the need for a differentiated approach to implementing affirmative action to avoid a blanket-one-size fit all solution. This is important since inequality and discrimination is experienced differently by groups targeted for affirmative action.

Despite these positive aspects of the White Paper, there is a striking limitation which COSATU believes should be urgently addressed. The White Paper is silent on the question of closing the wage gap. This is a serious omission as, firstly, the White Paper on Transformation of the Public Service commits government to closing the wage gap from the current ratio of "25:1 to a ratio of 12:1 or lower by 1999" and, secondly, corrective action in public sector employment must include efforts to close wage differentials inherited from the apartheid regime.

COSATU, therefore, recommends that questions of remuneration differentials be included in the employee profile to be developed by Departments and Provinces. We also call on the Parliamentary Committee on the Public Service to recommend that the following underlined section should be inserted into the draft White Paper's section on employee profile (at p.12) to read as follows:

· "Departments must maintain accurate statistics, updated annually, in respect of each of black people, women and people with disabilities, on:

· The total number of employees in each group, broken down by rank, occupational; class and level of remuneration."

Fiscal framework

In our submission on the Green Paper we outline our critique of strategies used to restructure the public service. They are unduly influenced by cost-cutting measures to satisfy the rigid budget deficit targets contained in the government's macro-economic strategy. Clearly such an approach hampers and undermines the implementation of affirmative action programmes.

COSATU has responded to those aspects of President Mandela's speech, regarding retrenchments in the public service, by calling for a National Framework Agreement on Restructuring the Public Service. Our analysis being as follows:

"We are of the view that restructuring, particularly of public sector staffing levels, needs to be done in a way which enhances service delivery and transformation rather than retarding it. There should not be a mechanical approach to retrenchments which may, for example, lead to more clinics and schools, with fewer nurses and teachers to staff them. The victims of such retrenchments would precisely be such public sector workers engaged in service delivery, and poor communities; and not the apartheid-era bureaucrats who are soaking up public money. COSATU would strongly oppose a mechanical approach to retrenchments, together with our public sector unions.

The question of staffing of the public service needs to be directly related to the question of whether staffing matches the actual delivery needs in any area. Historically the apartheid state may have overgoverned the majority, but chronically underserviced them. Where there is understaffing in critical areas of delivery, there needs to be an actual expansion of personnel, or upsizing. Where a bloated bureaucracy exists, however, this clearly needs to be cut back, or downsized. There is still an absence of accurate data on the staff profile of the public service and an audit, identifying areas of wastage has yet to be done."3

In the context of the implementation of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework it is important that the Department of Public Service and Administration develop a medium-term public service personnel strategy. The medium term personnel strategy should be based on the objective of achieving expanded service delivery in line with government's constitutional obligations and its commitment to reconstruction and development. As COSATU has consistently argued, it would be completely incorrect to mechanically cut back staffing levels on the basis of an across-the-board formula which is informed by arbitrarily imposed macro-economic targets. The starting point must be: "What is needed for improved service delivery? How do we reshape the public sector accordingly?"

Unless there is effective affirmative action in the quantity, quality and accessibility of public sector service delivery - unless historically un-serviced and under-serviced communities come to be adequately serviced - then the concept of affirmative action in the staffing policies of the public service rings hollow and becomes meaningless.

Principle of participation

In general, the principle of communication, participation and openness is welcomed. The shortcoming is failure to spell out how participation will be effected. In our submission on the Green Paper we proposed the establishment of affirmative action committees to provide a platform for staff to make an input on affirmative action programmes. The Department should investigate how these committees can be set up and their relationship with transformation units where they exist. Their powers and roles should be clearly spelled out.

Responsibility for Affirmative Action Programmes

The White Paper clearly delineates responsibility for affirmative action programme. This is an important step to ensure accountability and implementation. There is no clarity, however, on what will happen with Special Programmes Officers (SPOs). It is not clear whether they are to assume the position of affirmative action programme managers. The Department of Public Service and Administration should clarify their role.

We recommend that the Department of Public Service and Administration should assume the role of co-ordinating discussions with other organs of the public sector on developing affirmative action programmes. We believe that Parliament's Public Service Committee should amend the Draft White Paper to the extent that this function be added to the list of roles for the Department identified in the White Paper (at Chapter 4, p.23).

Accountability for implementation

It is not necessary to rehash the White Paper position on accountability for implementation. It is incumbent upon Parliament and the Public Service Commission to monitor progress on the implementation of affirmative action programmes. Other mechanisms to ensure compliance as well as punish failure to implement affirmative action programmes will be addressed via the Employment Equity Bill4. The Department of Public Service and Administration should make necessary adjustments to affirmative action policies as soon as the Employment Equity Bill is enacted.

4. Conclusion

In conclusion, we hope that the concerns and proposals raised in our submission will be taken on board. COSATU reserves the right to make further inputs as and when more information becomes available. We would also welcome the opportunity to discuss further the matters raised in this submission with members of the Committee and the Department.


No related


No related documents


  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: