It might be a noble exercise whose fruits can best be demonstrated through the emergence of the so-called ‘black diamonds’ who can afford to send their children to posh private schools, drive top-of-the-range cars, live in suburbs or gated complexes and hold membership to exclusive golf clubs. Nonetheless, there is a downside to affirmative action – unwittingly, it is worsening the plight of poor and vulnerable communities.
Head of the Institute of Race Relations, Dr Frans Cronje, said one of the blatant shortcomings of the policy of affirmative action it that it had created a very small black elite with exclusive control of opportunities that sidelined other beneficiaries.
He pointed out the policy’s failure could be mirrored from the current situation where fewer than 10% of black-African people and/or households had private medical insurance or pay bonds on houses — two of the best benchmarks of middle class status. More to the point, more than half of young people were unemployed.
Another drawback to affirmative action is that it had entrenched a culture of corruption and incompetence for which mainly vulnerable communities were paying a deadly price, observed Cronje. “Because many people are appointed to positions on the basis of their race, there is little public criticism of those appointments even when the people in question are manifestly unfit.”