‘Affirmative action policies – euphemistically referred to as B-BBEE in the SA context – have proved inherently counterproductive everywhere in the world. This should no longer be an issue for debate. The empirical evidence is irrefutable. Affirmative action stokes racial tensions and fosters a mindset of victimhood among the identified beneficiary group. This racially preferential (therefore discriminatory) policy should be totally and completely abrogated wherever it occurs in the world,’ says Temba Nolutshungu, a director of the Free Market Foundation and vice-president of the SA Institute of Race Relations.

‘The mere fact that explicitly racial policies target special sectors of the population for preferential treatment means those who are excluded are discriminated against.’

Writing in Business Day, Nolutshungu says affirmative action has clear negative consequences. He cites the example of the US, where African Americans have been beneficiaries of affirmative action policies for more than 50 years.

Latest statistics show the average annual household incomes as follows: Asian $101 418, white (not Hispanic) $78 912, Hispanic (any race) $58 015, black $48 175.

Says Nolutshungu: ‘It is most glaringly evident that blacks stubbornly occupy the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder, despite decades of affirmative action.’

He argues the implementation of affirmative action policies gives rise to the moral hazard of the perpetuation of victimhood among the targeted group.

‘This can render them vassals of a paternalistic nanny state, on which they become perpetually dependent. Those in government who are purveyors of affirmative action policies are incentivised to reinforce the sense of victimhood among the beneficiaries as this assures them of loyal voters. So the whole scenario becomes a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle. In the process, the entrepreneurial spirit of the targeted beneficiaries is blunted. This explains the recurring lower-than-average socio-economic status of blacks in the US despite years of affirmative action.’

Nolutshungu says a ‘sinister’ situation prevails in SA with affirmative action and B-BBEE in practice.

‘By means of its broad-based BEE equity plan, the government has made it mandatory for businesses to be complicit in the dirty work of classifying their workforces according to racial criteria, ostensibly to "rectify" the status quo and conform with the racial demographic.’

He add our ‘pernicious and morally egregious’ B-BBEE experiment in social engineering should be cast into the dustbin of history. Despite the negative consequences that are already evident as a result of these policies in SA, there is no shortage of apologists, including black rent-seekers and a variety of opportunistic individuals of all races.

He points to ‘guilt-ridden’ whites who condone these policies and ‘patronising’ blacks who have leapt aboard the affirmative action ‘gravy train’ – insulting those who have risen through the ranks and built their own businesses from the ground up. 

He quotes renowned economist, the late Walter Williams, who left us with a ‘poignant’ reminder: ‘Government is about coercion. Limiting government is the single most important instrument for guaranteeing liberty.’

Full opinion piece in Business Day