Are Business Associations or Bargaining Councils the go-to structures responsible for Racial and Gender Transformation in South Africa?

In my Professional Opinion

By Dr. Ivor Blumenthal

Whereas the South African Government, constituted of the ANC, the SACP and COSATU would want Civil Society to hold Organised Business and structures including Organised Business responsible for shepherding-in Industry and Sectoral Transformation Profiles acceptable to the Tri-Partite Alliance, it is simply nonsensical to suggest or expect that what are generally voluntary collective structures could be held solely accountable for rectifying the ills of history and the missteps of a frankly inept current Government.


There is no way, even if desirable, that members of an Employers Association would ever subject their plant-based company plans not just to scrutiny but to manipulation and control in collective organisations where they sit alongside their competitors in fiercely contested Industries. It is simply stupid of anyone including the ANC/SACP/COSATU alliance to expect this to happen. Imagine if we wanted the ANC to subject itself to DA intervention on whom it employs and moreover dictates to it on who it can employ or cannot. Imagine if we suggested to COSATU that it subjects itself to control by FEDUSA. How stupid and inane a suggestion! How naive!

This is after all the work of the Department of Labour, working in concert with the Department of Trade and Industries. They do not and should never have the luxury of passing the buck onto the Private Sector (although they might try).

Statutorily there are structures, Transformation Councils that have been registered and continue to be facilitated by Government to strategize ways of meeting these objectives. Not very successful for the same reasons, it is, however, their mandate and responsibility to try nevertheless.   

What Organised, Voluntary Associations of Business are however able to do is to conduct research and to report collectively on self-established voluntary targets of transformation across an Industry or cumulatively even in a Sector. This can be done by making themselves the central focal point for both Workplace Skills Planning as well as Employment Equity Reporting. Both Statutory Compliance expectations foisted upon Medium and Large Businesses operating in South Africa.

In this way, therefore, these Voluntary Collective bodies do not dictate Transformation & Change amongst their Members. Instead, they provide the mechanism for their members on a self-governing basis, to establish their targets, devise their programs and strategies and to simply then report on both their plans and periodically their achievements relative to these plans, to their respective Employer Associations.

Thereafter it becomes the job of Employer Associations to compile collective, abrogated reports on Transformation trends and patterns in their Industry or Sector, accounting for differences in size, resources, and financial factors. Depending on how progressive and forward-looking these Voluntary Collective Structures are allowed to be by their members, they could become more proactive and interventionist when it comes to Industry or Sectoral Talent/Manpower Management which may include the identification and tracking of High Achievers and the active development of Labour Pools via Cadet Development Programs, Learnerships and Internships in-association with the respective SETA’s.

Becoming responsible for Transformation is different from being a Rapporteur on Transformation, which is the only role that I suggest an Employer Association or Bargaining Council is in a position to perform in.

The focus of these Voluntary Collective Structures has been on Education, Training, and Development on the planning for and the implementation of strategies towards Transformation. It should also be on creating online mechanisms for reporting on plans and achievements in the domain of Transformation.

Primarily it should, however, be on the facilitation of Industry/Sectoral Think-Tanks around issues of Transformation.

Transformation is not solely about Race and Gender Issues. It is important for the facilitation process to broaden consultation on all areas in an Industry or Sector requiring Transformative Strategies to be implemented collectively and at the Plant level.

Therefore in the Telecommunication Sector, it may be discussions on collective interventions to ensure the eradication of Skill Imports. In the Transport Sector, it may include collective strategies to eradicate a menacing and murderous Taxi infestation. In the Banking Sector, it may be discussions on the voluntary mechanisms for Nationalisation of Banking in SA, whereas in the Health Sector it may be the establishment of Privately Funded Public Health Facilities. These issues have nothing to do with Race or Gender but everything to do with factors, which may affect the continuity or profitability of these respective Sectors beyond the present realities.

Finally, what often tickles me pink is how Beurocrats who are responsible for Transformation but have no competency or idea about how to manage Transformation practically tend to steer the attention of all concerned towards the Voluntary Collective Associations and Bargaining Councils themselves for Transformation focus. Their strategy to justify their existence is to create Red Herrings. As if effecting better Racial and Gender balances in these structures will somehow mean that they don’t have to focus on the real shortcomings and challenges of Transformation, which need to be faced in an Industry or Sector amongst the members themselves.

Who gives a rats…%$# about what Race or Gender the three or four presumably competent people who work in an Organised Business Association or Bargaining Council are when the real focus needs to be on Industry or Sectoral-Wide Transformation championing strategy?

Who do these incompetent idiots think they are fooling when adopting such a shortsighted strategy?