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10th February 2021

#Brackenfell: South Africa(n Businesses), We Need to Talk

Image by Rodrigo Rodriguez

An act of (real or perceived) racism anywhere can have devastating consequences for a whole neighbourhood, its business operations and its schools: this is the possibility implicit in the EFF’s statement that it will descend upon and disrupt Brackenfell “in its entirety”.


Some background: after Brackenfell High School’s official Matric Ball was canceled because of COVID-19, students and parents planned a separate masquerade ball with two teachers.  The event only had white attendants.  A few protests and fights later, the EFF released a statement that, among other things, said —


  1. Since 1994, there has never been a single black teacher working at Brackenfell High School, “which reveals how entrenched racism is at the school at an institutional level”;
  2. “Our laws are undermined, and law-officials are bullied by white racists, who have decided that there is no black government or black authority that can threaten their grip on sections of our society”;  
  3. “There has been no outcry by any of the so-called analysts who always accuse the EFF of violence and fascism, against this trampling of democracy by racists who seem to think they own sections of this country and will assault black people in the land of their birth.”

BEE Novation would like to point out that — 


  1. Government departments and school governing bodies can implement Employment Equity, but they won’t do so if society only reacts to (real or perceived) racism after an incident instead of proactively monitoring the implementation of systems and processes that mitigate it in the first place.  Employment Equity is one such measure, and we collectively have more to gain than to lose if, instead of being swept along by the EFF’s agenda for such incidences (and we are not criticising opportunism as such, if it yields a legitimate win-win scenario) we preemptively ask questions about the transformation practices of the businesses and institutions around us.
  2. The EFF notes correctly that our laws are undermined, but its solutions in many instances have bordered on vigilantism.  The best response to structural racism is to strengthen the application of the legal options that prevent it in the first place.  The Employment Equity Act (EEA), the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act (BBBEEA) and the Skills Development Act (SDA) were created to bring about equity and equality.  We have to take note of how we have allowed them to be hijacked for the enrichment of a politically-connected elite; we also have to take note of the opportunity costs of allowing lack of political will to distort the vision of a diverse, unified and equal South Africa.  But we can only do this if our stakeholder engagement practices are rooted in the rule of law both when we proactively monitor the implementation of legal deterrents to structural racism, as well as when we remedy racist events and behaviours through sensitisation and other diversity-management interventions after. 
  3. This is that outcry — but it’s also, potentially, a solution that can minimise the incidence of what the EFF is reacting to, going forward.


This is not a commendation or condemnation of the EFF’s methods: it’s instead a reminder that we have laws we can choose to apply instead of the EFF’s methods, if we prefer laws.  But we can’t be selective: the EEA, the BBBEEA, the SDA and many other laws are the first deterrent to a vigilantist reaction to (real or perceived) racism.  So we can’t complain about corruption down the line if we, too, have undermined the law; neither can we complain about racism if we haven’t actively held one another accountable for how we observe the law.  


After condemning the clashes, the South African Human Rights Commission said, “The deep racial divisions of South Africa’s apartheid and colonial past cannot be healed while children are socialised separately on the basis of race and thus, as a nation, we will never be able to forge a South Africa where all are equal, free and are treated with dignity.”


Socialisation is a function of what parents expose their children to.  The hope that by passive osmosis the next generation will somehow transcend their parents’ unconscious biases is, itself, racist.  President Ramaphosa has called for dialogue, but 26 years into democracy we have the tools to move into reconciliatory action: what we need is political leadership that urges the media, society at large and the business sector to engage the aforementioned legal instruments in nation-building efforts. 


BEE Novation is a transformation legislation compliance consultancy that is concerned about the future of this country.  Follow our social media platforms for updates on upcoming events.  BEE Novation will also be providing some public thought-leadership on how to proactively engage the schools and businesses in your sphere of influence to ensure they are complying with transformation legislation.


Black people are already looking for transformed suppliers, so it’s possible to convert the EFF’s analyses into constructive corrective action that contributes to nation-building.