I usually don’t mind suffering administrative schlepps when applying for jobs, albeit annoying. There is usually a gargantuan catalogue of forms to be completed and furnished for both the sake of registration with a recruitment agency and for compliance with the law. But the same is not true when I have to complete a questionnaire at the end indicating certain ‘sensitive information’ about myself intended for the company for purposes of ensuring ‘diversity’.[i]
And, of course, one of the requirements is to mention your ethnicity. To most Britons it seems surprisingly non-controversial. It genuinely amazes and concerns me that most people simply complete the forms without the slightest inkling of the surreptitious danger in this seemingly innocent tick box. But in reality, it is a red flag of a growing injustice in British society which is coming into being, namely racial quotas.
To me it brings back eerie memories of South Africa’s racialised labour regimen. After the fall of apartheid, the ruling black nationalist party, namely the African National Congress (ANC), announced its plans to introduce legalisation for ‘correcting’ the skewed labour market due to the racial policies of the past. The legislation would in local parlance be known as ‘affirmative action’ and its purpose was touted as the attempt to ensure demographic representativity in the labour market after the exclusion of groups of people, mostly black Africans, from sectors of the economy[ii]. This in itself might sound admirable in principle, but as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The application of affirmative action and the effects thereof have been catastrophic by both creating further injustices and destroying numerous sectors of the South Africa economy. Representativity would translate into racial quotas – a mere numbers game, i.e., irrespective of whether an individual possesses the competence to perform the work or not. Currently black Africans make up approximately eighty percent of the South African population. Coloured[iii] people form 8.8 percent of the demography, white people 8.4 percent and Indian people (i.e., people from the Indian subcontinent) around 2.5 percent. In all workplace recruitment and human resources policies this translates to a practice where roughly 80% of the workforce has to be black African, 8.8% coloured, 8.4% white and 2.5% Indian. If these targets are not met, a business can be fined an exorbitant amount of money or face criminal prosecution.
As I write, a row has erupted in South Africa around the application of racial quotas. A letter has surfaced at the country’s large pharmaceutical retail chain, Dischem. In the leaked letter the Chief Executive Officer of Dischem advised that as of 19 September 2022 there would be a moratorium on the appointment of white managers. This caused an outrage (rightly so), but it also puzzled me how white South Africans always seem to be so tone deaf to the racial politics developing around them, not only during apartheid, but under the new dispensation as well. It is as if white South Africans are ignorant to the racial rhetoric which have been hurled around them in public debates for literally decades. The quota system has been slowly making its way into South African businesses and institutions in full view of a generally apathic citizenry, who believed it would never go too far or affect them if it did.
But now it did and the penny dropped.
I am afraid, it is too late now to halt the momentum. It will ultimately get worse, which also serves as a general warning to those who choose to be indifferent or ill-informed in the face of creeping injustices in their societies, including in Britain. Such would well be the fate of British society if Britons (of all races) continue to sleepwalk through the current attempts at racial engineering.
But racial quotas had more than an effect of outrage amongst the white minority, they also have, economic consequences for the whole of the nation. All radical policies, such as racial quotas, ultimately have a ripple effect on the economy. A sterling example would be South Africa’s national electricity supplier, Eskom. Nowhere are the effects of racial quotas’ failures more visible than in the malperformance of South Africa’s only electricity provider. The doctrine of racial quotas has been applied with great fervour at Eskom and it has now caused its collapse as skilled white employees have been ousted from the state-owned enterprise.
It goes without saying that there has to be the empowerment of communities unfairly disadvantaged by apartheid’s racial policies, but it is the specific policies which make or break any reconstructing work. But instead of following an input-based approach, whereby the electricity supplier would train, upskill and ensure skills transfer to previously disadvantaged groups, the ANC has opted for a shortcut, namely an output-based solution based on racial quotas. This caused unskilled, untrained and inexperienced people to be charged with the management of the electricity supplier. Alas, even when civil rights groups campaigned for the reinstatement of the experienced white (and black) employees to remedy the dire state of Eskom, they were met with an attitude one can only describe as ‘spiteful’.
The government bluntly refused to do so.
The effect is that Eskom can no longer properly function to supply the country with electricity to keep the already faltering economy going. As there are no alternative suppliers, the South African public are at the mercy of Eskom’s dysfunction. To such an extent is the Eskom disaster that citizens have to endure daily shutdown of electricity supply called loadshedding. During this time the supply of electricity would be shut off completely and people have to rely on generators or solar panels to supply the necessary electricity. It does not take much imagination to grasp the catastrophic effect this has had on both the private sector and the lives of ordinary citizens. Small businesses suffer heavily as many cannot afford petrol-powered generators or solar panels to generate an electricity supply. Private citizens are also extremely inconvenienced and it can even cause health risks for those relying on electricity to keep vital machinery, such as ventilators, functioning.
There are numerous other examples such as the national airways, South African Air, and the numerous bankrupt municipalities, which make it abundantly clear that racial quotas have dire consequences not only on the groups affected, but are also detrimental to the whole of a nation.
If we now consider the position in the United Kingdom, we will observe the same concerning and insidious developments in the labour market. As for ‘diversity quotas’ (i.e targets), they are, of course, perfectly legal and are permitted by law such as per Sections 158 and 159 of the Equality Act 2010. However, de facto racial quotas where employees are actively hired purely on their race at the exclusion of over-represented races (in other words, positive discrimination) are fortunately not permitted (yet). Unfortunately, antiracist activism has been initiated to alter this state of affairs. Social justice activists favour positive discrimination against the white majority of this country. So far, racial quotas such as in the South African context are not legal – as the case in South Africa – but they are stealthily finding their way into the general employment landscape.
In fact, my humble view is that such legislation is already on the horizon. Statements made by high profile individuals are placing it on the agenda or, at least, hinting for it to be placed on the agenda. For instance, in 2019 at the CIPD Annual Conference in Manchester the Baroness Ruby MacGregor-Smith stated: “If we don’t do it, I think we’re going to have some pretty depressing things happen. I think we’ll end up with quotas, I think we’ll end up having more enforced legal actions, and I don’t think that’s right.”
Moreover, there are numerous instances where racial quotas have de facto already been implemented or where there were calls for them to be implemented. These cases sometimes find their way into the mainstream media, other times not.
I can mention two specific cases which horrified me when I read of them (although the examples are legion):
Firstly, very recently, on 19 August 2022 it was reported that Air Vice-Marshal Maria Byford, chief of staff personnel and air secretary in charge of Royal Air Force recruitment had stated ‘it was unashamed of meeting its diversity targets’[iv] and therefore it would place a ‘pause’ on the recruitment of ‘white men’ to satisfy diversity quotas’. It is disconcerting that the armed forces charged with the security of the United Kingdom are concerning themselves with diversity politics instead of appointing staff – whether white or black, brown – based on their ability to discharge their duties as a defence force for the country.
A second example is the Church of England’s scheme for setting a quota of 30 percent of leadership training to be reserved for the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community. This is according to a report, which was leaked to The Spectator, entitled: “From Lament to Action: Report of the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce.” It is a clear indication that the Church of England will apply racial quotas and itself will be discriminating against clergy. Moreover, and even more concerning, is the impression it now creates that racial quotas are divinely endorsed. Every believer is expected to condone the practice of positive discrimination against the white majority. It is regretful to see that the Church is now using its ecclesiastical influence to convert the general populace of believers to highly controversial social justice causes.
As with the South African scenario of Eskom, the effect might now be that the Royal Air Force and the Church of England will become dysfunctional or even non-functional. My deep fear is not these instances of virtual-signalling by organisations or individuals in an attempt to make themselves relevant, it is that these human resources and publicity practices will eventually be written into law and become a legal requirement for the hiring of staff.
In other words, it will create a situation where the law would make it obligatory to apply racial quotas at workplaces (and elsewhere) such as affirmative action policies now being enforced in South Africa. Not only will this roll back the great gains of British meritocracy, it will also have repercussions on the effective operations of both the public and private entities, as the case studies of Eskom and others in South Africa have shown. The Eskom example will most probably be the end scenario too for all entities in Britain under the regimen of racial quotas. With these new labour laws in place, hiring practices will be determined by a numbers game of race only and result in the capable – of whichever ethnic background – not being appointed. This will have a detrimental effect on both majority populations and minority ones, as the courts would soon have to enforce all quotas, including against an overrepresentation of a minority group in a workplace.
Of course, it goes without saying that not all affirmative action appointees will by definition be incompetent, but it will be less likely that an able worker is appointed. It remains a tremendous risk in the appointment of employees if you are first and foremost considering race than ability. Worst of all, not only will it be enforced by law, but it will become a societal norm or custom to make appointments based on racial representation.
So, from the South African experience, if there is one, small and humble piece of advice I can impart to British society it is this: Ditch the numbers game before it ditches your society.
[i] For the sake of brevity, I will not refer in detail to the plethora of race legislation in South Africa, but restrict myself to the controversy surrounding racial quotas. Furthermore, I will use the collective noun ‘affirmative action’ as a blanket term for all racial legalisation concerning the use of racial quotas.
[ii] For instance, in the Employment Equity Act, Act section 15(1) explicitly states as follows: Affirmative action measures are measures designed to ensure that suitably qualified people from designated groups have equal employment opportunities and are equitably represented in all occupational categories and levels in the workforce of a designated employer. (My emphasis). South African post-democracy history shows that the requirement of ‘suitably qualified’ are not even applied anymore.
[iii] The Coloured people designate people of mixed-race, who became a separate ethnic group under apartheid. The word is currently controversial and is being reviewed. I use this word with caution and sensitivity as there is currently no other official term in legislation.
[iv] This is the same wording used in South Africa to justify the application of race quotas.