Whites Still Calling the Shots

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK Employment Equity Commissioner Vilbard Usiku has questioned whether employers and business leaders can really be comfortable with the status quo prevailing in the country. He wondered whether business people could really be happy with the continued marginalisation of their fellow black citizens under the pretext of lack of skills, experience or other competencies. He also wanted to know whether they thought Namibia could continue to enjoy peace, harmony and political stability under circumstances of racial marginalisation and racial discrimination. Usiku posed these questions when addressing members of the tourism industry who gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Gondwana Desert Collection Group’s lodges recently. He called on business leaders to take a long hard look at their employment policies and practices and to do things in a manner that will positively contribute to nation building and sustainable political and socio-economic stability. “I’m appealing to you as employers and business leaders to make concerted efforts to develop the potential and skills of the human material in your employment,” he said. Namibia could go a long way towards practically addressing the skills deficit identified as a serious development constraint, by investing in the training and development of the country’s human capital. They would get a return on their investment in different forms and shapes such as employee loyalty, high employee motivation and high productivity and efficiency. “Our challenges today with regard to Namibian labour relations are those of racial divide, racial mistrust, racial discrimination, racial prejudice and inequalities and disparities that are defined by race and to a certain extent by urban versus rural domicile,” he remarked. Usiku once again drew attention to the disappointing results of the 2004 Affirmative Action Impact Assessment Study. The study revealed that very little progress was made in a number of employment practices with respect to race. He said the study revealed that previously racially disadvantaged groups were seriously under-represented in key positions. Only a few blacks were employed at management and supervisory levels, notwithstanding the fact they constitute the majority of the total workforce covered in the affirmative action reports submitted to the Employment Equity Commission. The study revealed blacks were employed mainly as labourers and general workers. One of the factors cited by the report for the lack of progress is the scarcity of suitably qualified people from previously racially disadvantaged groups. Another reason given is the limited number of experienced, skilled and professional blacks to assume critical managerial and supervisory responsibilities. Usiku however highlighted that the study singled out the lack of goodwill on the part of white employers as being one of the main reasons for the lack of progress. According to the report, lack of goodwill is the major obstacle that retards progress in appointing previously racially disadvantaged people to management and decision-making positions.