Constitution Is Not Promoting Upliftment

Constitutional scholar, George Devenish, asserts that South Africa’s socio-economic inequality is not due to the failure of the constitution but is a consequence of, inter alia, maladministration and corruption (Mercury, April 30). But given the way aspects of the constitution have been interpreted, Professor Devenish’s view invites query.

Sections 9, 195 and 217 of the constitution refer to measures to be applied to achieve equality. To that end, they note that such measures are applicable to “persons, or categories of persons,  disadvantaged by unfair discrimination.” Nowhere do those provisions state or refer or specify compliance with the actual demographic profiles of national and regional populations. Instead, they refer only to “broad representation.”

Yet section 42 of Act 47 of 2013, the amended Employment Equity Act, requires demographic profiles to be taken into account so as to achieve compliance with the Act. In plain terms, that means racial quotas based on regional and national demographic profiles. Nationally those profile percentages are: 78,6% African, 9,6% Coloured, 9,1% white and 2,7% Indian. Non-compliance by companies with those provisions may attract a fine of up to R1,5 million. In KZN, for example, with higher regional African and Indian demographics, percentages would differ.

Equality can be legislated but not its outcomes. Adherence to ideology, as the Employment Equity Act requires, is no guarantee of socio-economic upliftment. In fact the reverse is true.
Apart from crime, maladministration and corruption, the biggest handbrake on economic expansion and emancipation is prescriptive legislation, now endorsed by the constitution, concerning the hiring, firing and advancement of labour and personnel. As such, it discourages foreign investment and disincentivises economic expansion. Thus, it would seem, the constitution is not promoting upliftment.

Exacerbating and perpetuating socio-economic differences is the welfare system which prevails. As Professor Devenish notes, some 19 million people are reliant on state welfare. But for many, the receipt of welfare does not incentivise them to improve their lot. For as the saying goes, ‘subsidise poverty and you get more of it.’

Socio-economic inequality is a worldwide reality. In the USA, one percent of the population owns 42% of all financial and resource assets. But where inequality is most evident is in countries that implement socialist policies. History abounds with evidence that socialism results in equality in poverty and mediocrity for the masses while the drivers of that ideology enjoy material luxury. The comfortable lifestyles of the SACP, Cosatu and ANC elites exemplify that.

Striving to improve the quality of life and opportunities is necessary and important. But striving to establish socio-economic equality is not possible unless one is prepared to lower stands and to institutionalise mediocrity which is what socialism delivers.

Sent into The Mercury and Published, 2 May 2018.

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