Discussions got heated when the public challenged Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi as to why there was not a “fair amount of coloured” people working in the Western Cape.
Mr Nxesi spoke at the Mitchell’s Plain Sport and Recreation Indoor Centre in Portland on Friday October 13 during an employment equity engagement session and service delivery campaign, hosted by his department.
During his opening remarks, he said that community members were the most important audience to this debate.
“Our people are facing poverty. Our people are facing inequality. Our people are facing hunger. The question is how do we fight these scourges,” he asked.
“Hunger, disease, inequality, knows no ANC, knows no DA, knows no EFF. The ordinary person wants people who are going to resolve their problems,” he said.
The department has been on a national tour to speak to communities to address their concerns of employment equity.
“Issues of employment equity has been distorted deliberately, saying that its Africans versus Coloureds and Indians, making the poor fight amongst themselves or hate each other,“ he said.
Mr Nxesi said they were aware of the frustrations applicants have in standing in long queues in some labour centres; being asked to produce documents multiple times; and waiting endlessly for payments from funds to which they had contributed, like the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). He said many reports state that the labour market continued to be “racialised and engendered”.
“Black applicants are treated fairly and to limit the appointment of white applicants over more talented black applicants and use it where it is a powerful tool against intellectual mediocrity and stagnation,” he said.
Mr Nxesi said that, according to the constitution, more specifically the EEA 55 of 1998, the term “black people” means Africans, Coloureds and Indians.
Fadiel Adams, president of the Coloured National Congress (CNC), formerly the Cape Coloured Congress (CCC), said the Human Rights Commission report of 2017, on the implementation of the skewed Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), “the coloured community has gotten 40 percent poorer as a result”.
“Your department employed 48 black employees at the Mitchell’s Plain office. Not a single coloured person. This department threw away thousands of coloured CVs. This province is notorious for employing white people on top. We are tired of the lies,” he said.
Mr Adams and some of his supporters heckled during the minister’s response when he reiterated an explanation for the term “black people”. Mr Adams then left the meeting and was followed by several other residents.
Community worker Victor Gelderbloem, from Portland, said there were people in the audience who had not yet had a piece a bread or cup of coffee for the day.
“They can’t afford this because of the unemployment your offices have created in the Western Cape.
“Our people are hungry. They must decide whether they are going to take a R10 to buy electricity or a R10 bread. Government is not employing our people — South African people. We the Khoi San people,” he said.
Mr Nxesi said that the matter of the Khoi San people was raised by people in the Eastern Cape in a calm and proper way. “They even put proposals before me.
“It is a big debate as to who are the indigenous people of our land,” he said.
The minister said all people should be accommodated and be able to move forward with what they have.