Public service managers are being encouraged to keep posts vacant rather than fill them with whites, an SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) says.
“In the name of transformation, managers in the public service have actually been incentivised to keep whites out for racial and ideological reasons. Better to leave a vacancy unfilled than to put a white person into it,” SAIRR consultant John Kane-Berman said in the newsletter, published on Tuesday.
He said this was a “lose-lose-lose situation” and “madness”.
In the newsletter, Kane-Berman was responding to the death of three babies in Bloemhof, North West, due to water contamination caused by a sewage spill.
Earlier in June, the SAIRR reportedly blamed affirmative action for the deaths, and said the policy should be scrapped.
The institute said black empowerment policies had seen unqualified people appointed to positions where their incompetence affected poor and vulnerable communities.
“The Bloemhof municipality lost its capacity to maintain the sewer plant,” chief executive Frans Cronje was quoted as saying at the time.
“There is no doubt that the officials responsible for these deaths were appointed, at least in part, on grounds of race-based affirmative action and that a direct causal link therefore exists between the policy and the deaths.”
Kane-Berman said those appointed to posts were unqualified and were appointed only because they are black.
“Posts are sometimes left vacant if the only person available to fill them is white. It further means that experienced people who happen to be white get out of the public service because they are denied promotion or encouraged to take early retirement.”
The problem is further complicated by a lack of accountability in government, with politicians accountable to party headquarters, rather than to the electorate.
“People who fail to do their jobs, or who defraud the state, do so because they know they can get away with it,” he said.
The mix, he said, was toxic.
“Our system of government is indeed poisoned by a toxic mix of affirmative action, cadre deployment, and impunity.
“Filling a racial quota or supporting the right party, or the right faction within it, are often more important.”
South Africa was suffering from a crumbling health system and a rising disease burden, he said.
“Hospitals and clinics don’t run themselves. They are run by people. When things go wrong… it is not the result of happenstance or bad luck or just one of those things. It is the result of decisions made or actions taken, or not taken, by those people.
“So it is a logical inference that something is wrong with the criteria according to which appointments in these facilities are made.”
He said healthcare management was in crisis, infrastructure and equipment in health facilities were in a desperate state, facilities in rural areas faced dire shortages, and those in urban areas were under severe strain due to a growing population.
“Again, it is a reasonable inference that affirmative action and cadre deployment in the public service compound the problems arising from the country’s skills backlogs, and failure to train government professionals,” he said.
Kane-Berman said anger at nepotism, corruption, and lack of accountability were behind numerous protests across the country.
Quoting from a report by the Commission for Employment Equity, he said Africans presently held 69 percent of top management jobs in government.
“But Africans within the 35 to 64 age cohort from which one would expect top managers to be drawn make up only 36 percent of the economically active population, while only 4.1 percent of over 20s have post-school training.
“This suggests that affirmative action has been rigorously implemented in the public sector regardless of levels of experience or formal qualification.”
He said it was widely recognised that South Africa was plagued by corruption, nepotism, incompetence, and lack of accountability.
“A few people are beginning to identify cadre deployment as a problem. Very few people are willing to identify affirmative action as part of the problem,” he said.
“South Africans need to wake up to the tragic results of the policies being implemented in their name.”