Buy today’s The Star newspaper if you are in Joburg (sometimes iol.co.za also uploads Denis Beckett’s Stoep Talk).
Denis has written a follow-up to his column last week where he referred to me as his “friend C”. After checking that he could use my name and that none of what he was saying was untrue, today’s article appears.
With one or two black South Africans at Saints also criticising my stance on BEE/quotas/affirmative action – call it what you will – clearly this is a topic we all have strong views on.
I place Denis’ The Star article below and, rather unusually, my comments IN CAPS next to his statements. There is emotion in this debate, no doubt, but I hope Denis and my contrasting views allows us all to move forward, together. I’d love to hear your views.
Stoep Talk – 3 June 2019 The Star
Last week the Stoep applauded the breed of New New Afrikaners who become cheerleaders for Africa, but recorded that we would dispute one of their commandments. That’s the one that sees every replacing of a white face by a black one as a triumph.
This arose when Carel Nolte – a model NNA, birthing or boosting a fistful of progressive projects every day – grumbled that Black Economic Empowerment needs more heft and more speed, both morally and to put solid stabilising wealth in black hands.
He startled when I dissented. He didn’t believe I could be onside the New SA and yet anti-BEE. Well, here’s my case that to be really onside the new nation, you have to be anti-BEE.
I completely want a decent society with work for its people and liveable incomes all round. But we aren’t getting there. We’re going the other way, firstly by dismissing our skills. When Piet who comes third in the entrance exam loses out to Sipho who came 17th, the racist response is that Piet’s time is over; it’s right to give way. The rational response is: my country is taking strychnine. Canada gets Piet’s skills and we develop a national ethic that Middle is the thing to aspire to. SUGGESTION 1: LOSING OUT IN WHAT? GENERALLY IN GETTING A CORPORATE OR GOVERNMENT POSITION. THE FORMER MEANS THAT THOSE (WHITE) PEOPLE (ESPECIALLY YOUNGSTERS) “LOSING” OUT ARE PUSHED EVEN MORE INTO STARTING SMALL BUSINESSES, BECOMING ENTREPRENEURS. ASSUMING ALL WHITE PEOPLE WHO “LOSE” OUT, IMMIGRATE IS PERHAPS A STRETCH. AS IS THAT BEE LET’S NUMBER 17 “BEAT” NUMBER 1 – RATHER THAN NUMBER 2, 3 OR 4 – FOR GOOD MORAL REASON – GOING FIRST. AS FOR GOVERNEMNT ROLES – MOST OF OUR POPULATION (THOSE SERVED BY GOVERNMENT) ARE BLACK AND SO MOST OF THE POSITIONS SERVING CAN BY REPRESENTIVE OF THE DOMINANT RACE GROUP (AS IT IS EVERYWHERE ? ELSE)
Count 2: every worthwhile effect credited to BEE is not due to BEE. Spreading learning, broadening wealth, facilitating start-ups, favouring the equal applicant with the harder background… That’s common-sense, decency, good management. SUGGESTION 2: IT IS ALL THESE THINGS DENIS. BUT HOW MUCH DECENCY DO YOU SEE IN BRAZIL, VENEZUELA, USA, UK, POLAND, EGYPT – AND A LONG, LONG LIST OF COUNTRIES. COMMON SENSE, DECENCY AND GOOD MANAGEMENT DOES NOT SEEM TO ME TO BE THE DEFAULT POSITIONS – BUT ONCE THAT NEED TO BE LEGISLATED. I THINK YOU ARE PERHAPS LIVING IN A BYGONE AREA. VERY LONG GONE.
Count 3: BEE’s sole significant meaning is choosing the non-best person for the job. Which commits treason against us all, and our children and unborn generations. SUGGESTION 3: “NON-BEST” AS A RESULT OF CENTURIES OF RACIAL AND GENDER (YES, I AM ALSO VERY IN FAVOUR OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION FOR WOMEN) OPPRESSION. NOT “NON-BEST” OWING TO ANY FAULT OF THEIR OWN. AND SIMPLY WAITING CENTURIES FOR THESE ILLS TO RIGHT THEMSELVES, IS NOT ACCEPTABLE OR FAIR TO MY MIND.
Count 4: BEE is Apartheid Version 2.0. Marxists say that when a long mistake ends the opposite mistake gets an outing. We’re in that mistake now. In apartheid’s “reform” period, voters thought you hated them if you said “you can’t modify white protection; until white people are the same citizens as everyone, constructive effort is wrecked by the fight about citizenship”
The new electorate thinks you hate them if you say “you can’t reform BEE, as long as black protection lasts you’ll be wrecking the economy by addressing race groups instead of people”. SUGGESTION 4: VERY HAPPY THAT BEE GETS REFINED – AS IT HAS BEEN. LOTS OF HOW BEE HAS BEEN APPLIED HAS BEEN AN ABYSMAL FAILURE – THAT IS OWING, I BELIEVE, OFTEN TO GREED AND CORRUPTION (BY WHITE AND BLACK BEE ‘PLAYERS). REFINE AND IMPROVE BEE, DON’T SCRAP IT.
Nor, Carel, can you get away with evasions – “but sometimes the black person is the best person”. Of course; then BEE is nowhere in the picture. (It’s striking that to defend BEE you invoke the opposite of what BEE does; this thing has sunk deep).
Similarly “but that’s saying blacks can’t do it”. It has nil to do with “blacks”. Whether Catholic/Protestant, Malay/Chinese, any groups whatever, if you tell one segment of people “rejoice, we’ll make jobs and contracts easier for you”, individuals might brief high personal flights before they crash. The group as such is crashing from the start.
Carel, what you are doing is magnificent. I’m appealing: don’t mistake BEE for your ally. Know it as Tweedledee to apartheid’s Tweedledum. Don’t get unpopular shouting that. Just know that in the end, the more you have avoided it the more good you will have done.
In our discussion “black” came up about fifteen times. I’d love to see that word dwindle, to the twice or thrice that its role is real. Rather think “people”. That’ll change nothing you do, just the spirit of the doing, making inclusion feel inclusive, as opposed to tallying categories. AS AN INDIVIDUALIST TO THE POINT OF BEING OFF THE SPECTRUM, ARGUING SO STRONGLY FOR POLICIES THAT BENEFIT A GROUP (BLACK PEOPLE AND WOMEN) HAS BEEN A LONG, INTELLECTUAL DEBATE I HAVE HAD WITH MYSELF. I STARTED OFF SUPPORTING IT FROM A MORAL PERSPECTIVE. BUT NOW I KNOW, AS A WHITE, AFRIKAANS MALE, THAT UNLESS WE PRO-ACTIVELY ENSURE THAT WOMEN AND BLACK PEOPLE, SOON, SHARE FAIRLY IN THE WEALTH AND POWER, WE ARE ALL DOOMED. OF COURSE, THIS GOES HADN IN HAND WITH FIGHTING A SYSTEM WHERE 26 PEOPLE IN THE WORLD OWN AS MUCH AS THE BOTTOM 50%. OR TWO PEOPLE IN SA OWN AS MUCH AS THE BOTTOM 50%. BEE AIMS AT FIXING THAT.
Do you fear that approach leaving our top-heavy status-quo intact? Easy answer: make the Generating of wealth holy – all hands on deck, used to maximum capacity. That’ll free thought for a 21st-century Distributing of wealth. Of which there will be some to distribute. THE DEBATE HAS STARTED – AND ONE THING (AMONGST MANY) I APPRECIATE ABOUT YOU DENIS IS YOUR ABILITY TO START, HAVE AND DRIVE CONVERSATIONS. THANK YOU. AND MAY THIS ONE CONVINCE YOU TO OPEN YOUR MIND AND JOIN ME AS WE ACCELERATE BEE.
CHECK OUT www.cnandco.com for a host of (differing) opinions on matters of the world. And if what I say makes any sense, perhaps you’ll also enjoy