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People rather than race

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Now we have the mirror: it’s okay to advocate variants of BEE, but to say it’s a total mistake is shocking

Carel Nolte

IT’S AGAINST my religion to make columns into serials, punishing the once-off reader. But we all sin occasionally and this is my moment. The Stoep last week admiringly congratulated the New New Afrikaners on becoming cheerleaders for Africa, but threatened to dispute one of their commandments, the one that says every replacing of a white face by a black one is a triumph. Here we go:

Carel Nolte is an archetypal NNA, his day not complete until he has birthed or boosted some new endeavour to smooth South Africa’s forward path.

His theme-song: for stability and progress get maximum wealth into black hands by exterminating anything that hinders Black Economic Empowerment.

To his underlying sentiment, hooray, of course society must generate wealth where wealth is absent. That’s morality meeting survival; nothing better. But by BEE? I’m stunned. “You surely don’t mean that,” I say, “you know BEE is a ruse, right, Apartheid Version 2.0?”

Now he’s stunned. He genuinely believes BEE is a holy cause. So let’s spell this out. Carel, you and I share the same simple aim, a fair and decent society that provides work for people and respects them for their character.

First step to getting there is accepting that we’re not on the way. We’re in what Marxists call “antithesis” – after a long mistake the opposite mistake gets an outing.

You’re too young (!) to remember when it was okay to argue varied ways of protecting white people but not to argue no, no provisions for whites, a sound basis needs equal citizens.

Now we have the mirror: it’s okay to advocate variants of BEE, but to say it’s a total mistake is shocking.

Last time round, people doing good works hated hearing “your work can’t be truly effective while we stay on a skew foundation”. Now, your temperature rises as I say that the good work you are doing can’t be properly effective while we stay on a skew foundation. And you ask angrily, why not?

First abandon the escape routes – that BEE means spreading learning, broadening wealth, supporting start-ups, choosing the less privileged equal applicant. All of that is good management, common sense, human decency. BEE rebuts those things. It means choosing the non-best person for the job.

When people from “out” quarters rise into roles not previously known, we exult in the person, we exult in fairness setting in, and we exult in the broadening of our nation’s high-level competence. We rejoice trebly.

Not when it’s fake rising, a pulling-up by politics. Doing it by BEE destroys the person and destroys the country. The evidence is patent: collapsing institutions, disgraced executives, disgusting “Fitness to Hold Office” trials. (The politician making the appointment should be on trial.)

When BEE says “sorry, Piet, you came third so you lose to Sipho, who came 17th ”, that’s taken as Piet sacrificing for his nation’s good. No, it’s the nation taking strychnine.

Canada gets Piet’s skills and we slither down the slippery slope of aspiring to non-best.

Carel, in deep respect for your contribution to our nation, I urge you to recognise BEE as Tweedledee to apartheid’s Tweedledum.

That needn’t mean getting vocal on BEE’s fraudulence.

It means taking the race-scales off your eyeballs. I think 15 times in our conversation you spoke of “black”, how many blacks benefited from this activity or that.

How about thinking “people”?