In my Professional Opinion – Feb 25 – The Workplace – Professional Bodies are not as racist as Juju implies.

At his Press Conference after the 2015 SONA, Juilius Malema went on a vitriolic rant against White people in South Africa. The generalities of his diatribe are less important than one specific set of statements, which caught my attention. He made no bones about criticizing Professional Bodies for being racist and for reserving the crème of Professional Designations for White people.

Juju said that Black people, could not be recognized by Professional Bodies,, because they simply did not have the qualifications necessary to qualify.

It seems to me either that the EFF has been fed incorrect information on how Professional Bodies operate or that the Professional Body for Cabinet Makers has refused Juilius professional recognition for his competency at woodwork.

I think that the reality is that there is a political move afoot from Black organisations in South Africa, to force Professional Bodies to confer professional status on recipients who do not qualify, simply because of their colour and race.

That is not what Professional Bodies are there for. They are there to encourage the recognition of practitioners with proven competence rather than simply qualifications. The difference being that it would be Training Providers who are responsible for conferring qualifications on recipients who have satisfied the requirements of a registered SAQA qualifications.

Professional Bodies on the other hand are entrusted with an Industry or Sector of Industries collectively agreeing on what true competence looks and feels like, and what true Professional Behavior and Conduct consists of. The work of the Professional Body is to encourage recognition of candidates satisfying these two sets of requirements namely performance and behavioral criteria.

The existence of a Professional Body, especially one registered by SAQA, makes it possible for Black candidates and others who historically may have been discriminated against, to be recognized for their competence and professional conduct by a community of their peers irrespective or race, gender or age. SAQA’s job is to police the activities of registered Professional Bodies to make sure that there is no possibility of Job Reservation or discrimination and indeed the mere existence of SAQA serves as an appeal structure, a buffer against misuse.

Having said this, Juju is not automatically wrong to assume that irrespective of how fair a framework may be, there is always potential for nefarious misuse of that system. Just like Tax Avoidance is legally possible in any country in the world, there is a thin line between finding legal ways to avoid paying tax and on the other hand simply refusing to pay tax. So, a conscious attempt to grab hold of the infrastructure of a Professional Body, and misuse it for racist reasons, to encourage the beneficiation of one racial grouping over another is of course possible. However the likelihood of this misuse these days is more possibly going to be effected by under qualified and incompetent people who have a sense of entitlement and unreasonable expectations, than it is by historically classified supremacists as Juju seems to be suggesting. The latter are under far too much scrutiny to be able to manipulate the system as Juju implies.

The enabling framework for Professional Bodies has been constructed in such a way that it makes allowance for all sorts of wonderful architecture being created to recognise the competency of truly professional people who do not have a classic education, who have not achieved formal qualifications but who have spent years, sometimes decades even, honing their skills and proving both their professional competencies but also acting in a highly professional manner throughout.

Any Professional Body, which refuses to apply its mind to non-traditional ways of recognising competence or professional conduct in an applicant, will not last and certainly will not continue to enjoy a SAQA license to operate.

This is true, firstly because there are not a finite number of Professional Bodies registered by SAQA. This creates a system of market forces and the need to be current and attractive to would be recipients. If one Professional Body cannot satisfy a potential future members needs for access, there will always be another more modern and up to date one, which will be. Even within the same Industry or Sector there is potentially always going to be choices because SAQA rules do not restrict one Professional Body to operating in each Industry or even collectively in one Sector.

Secondly, the reason that bad Professional Bodies will not last or be successful is financial. A Professional Body is totally dependent on income from membership via a number of income streams such as Professional Membership fee’s not only for designations and registrations but also for Continuous Professional Development activities and the like. Why would any organisation dependent on these sources of income restrict those sources for racist reasons as Juju suggests. Business is business and maximizing income is in the best interests of any Professional Body. There are no longer any independent sources of income, which Professional Bodies can rely on and which make them independent of income from members. The more members the better. Economies of scale are what keep a Professional Body going. Services they wish to offer are totally dependent on income available to be able to create and offer those services.

So my leader, my chief, you are wrong. There are obviously many tall windmills of racist practices out there for you to be charging your trusted steed towards, but Professional Bodies are not one of them. Perhaps you should look towards yourself?

Hari Kiri Comrades?