‘Affirmative Action Act Reaps the Opposite’

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The Namibian Employer’s Federation (NEF) says the Affirmative Action Act has resulted in a few Namibians with good education using their previously disadvantaged status to hop from one job to another in search of greener pastures. The federation yesterday told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource, Social and Community Development that the Act, aimed at ensuring that previously disadvantaged Namibians enter into the country’s mainstream, has ended up reaping the opposite. Tim Parkhouse, NEF Secretary General, said the group, with both good education and career guidance was using their previously disadvantaged status to look for higher paying positions because some companies want to comply with the requirement of the Act and are experiencing problems because of limited skills. “These companies are desperately looking for people they can employ,” he said. Parkhouse cited the poor quality of basic education, the poor quality of products from the country’s tertiary institutions, high salary expectations, brain drain and the bureaucracy involved in employing foreign expertise as some of the reasons for skills shortages. The quality of education in the country, which is not yet up to scratch has seen the production of graduates that are not fit for employment, he said. “The quality of the products of our tertiary institutions is often so poor that they are in fact unemployable,” said he, adding that there was no point in producing graduates with nice certificates and diplomas if they had no basic knowledge of what they have learnt. The ones that the employers take on still need further training and development for them to be up to standard. In addition to this, he noted that young people left school unequipped and not able to cope with demands of tertiary education, which made it more difficult for them to complete their degrees and be employed. “Basic education is the foundation and if the foundation is not strong enough a house will collapse,” he added. Elize Fahl, NEF’s chairperson said the situation of having shortage of skills was slowing down the country’s economic growth. The categories in which skills lack the most are technician and engineering work. While this is the case, many graduates, who the NEF said are unemployable demand salaries and management positions that they do not deserve unlike the older employees, many of whom started at low levels and climbed up the ranks to get into middle and senior management positions. “Affirmative action of appointing people into positions for which they lack experience is recipe for economic disaster. In the first instance, they cannot cope and they usually know it, but secondly and equally important those around both the seniors and juniors also know it,” added Parkhouse. The meeting was a result of dissatisfaction with the state of affairs that many companies are not complying with the requirements of the Affirmative Action Act. A motion on this was referred to the committee to get information on the challenges that are being encountered with the implementation of the Act. Chairperson of the committee, Elia George Kaiyamo told the meeting that as a committee mandated to oversee issues related to health, education, employment creation and labour, it was incumbent upon them to consult with their main stakeholders such as employees, employers and other relevant institutions. The NEF also took issue with the fact that the commission has not acted on a single case of non-compliance. “More than six years to date since the Act came into force, not one single company has been legally charged for non compliance,” he added. The committee also sought comments from the Legal Assistance Centre, which suggested that the basic premise was to have a more holistic approach to affirmative action and not just steps in the workplace. The LAC made comparisons between Namibia’s Act and those of South Africa and Canada.

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