The companies we keep



May 17, 2016
The companies we keep

PROTEST: The Black Lawyers Association wants Jansen out. CREDIT: Sourced

SA business still too white.

Incidents of racism are like Medusa.

The minute you chop off one of the heads, two more grow back.

I’m sure you must have been following the story of Judge Mabel Jansen, who is facing a storm for saying that rape is part of black people’s culture.

She is part of the 2016 Hall of Shame – people who shot their un-PC mouths off, courting hatred from South Africans desperate for racial unity.

Matthew Theunissen, Penny Sparrow, Chris Hart, Gareth Cliff and Ntokozo Qwabe were the big racism stories lately. And let’s not forget all the black-on-white social media hatred that FW de Klerk pointed out in January.

While government is now considering legislation around this, something interesting caught my eye.

The Employment Equity Commission’s annual report shows that nothing much has changed in South Africa’s boardrooms, where white males still dominate. In a country still struggling with racial tension that flares up every now and again, business doesn’t seem to be contributing to the solution.

The EEC’s report says white men still remain in power and where they are leaving, retiring or resigning, younger white men are being employed to replace them. In fact, it has remained this way for years and now the commission wants to hold workshops to find out why business is not meeting government’s affirmative action targets.

I’ve noticed how some companies disguise their whiteness very well. They make sure dark-skinned people are employed on the frontline. So when you call, it’s a black or coloured voice that answers.

The marketers who are the face of the business are usually dark-skinned and so are most of the sales people. But the truth is, they still report to a white guy in the office.

I think a large part of the country’s social problems lies with corporate South Africa’s resistance to change.

If white people are constantly feeling threatened by employment equity and dark-skinned people hit glass ceilings, then the outcome is obviously going to be frustration and mistrust.

You can’t force companies by law to make decisions that are for the national good. Otherwise you switch one set of frustration for another.

Which brings me to the issue of education.

It’s where I believe we missed a trick as a new democracy.

We still don’t know enough about each other as South Africans.

We don’t understand one another’s languages, cultures, fears and traditions, so we rely on generalisations.

What we need is a type of domestic social exchange programme for adults, so we can get under each other’s skins.

Imagine living the life of someone in Camps Bay for a month, while they came to live yours!

Imagine us all being able to speak English, Afrikaans and the dominant native language of our region.

My one major regret is never having learned to speak isiXhosa. It embarrasses me whenever a gogo talks to me and I have to tell her that I don’t speak isiXhosa.

I watched a little Xhosa toddler chasing after a pigeon the other day.

The excited joy on his face was obvious as he called to his mother, who responded like any mother would anywhere in the world.

It just reminded me again of how we are all just the same, despite our differences.

Corporate South Africa has the means to amplify this and make this stupid racism go away.

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