Affirmative Action in the South African Workplace is highly contested but it has an essential role to play in ensuring an end to labour discrimination and a move towards employment equity. During Apartheid selected population groups were deliberately prevented from accessing equality in terms of their rights, education and employment. The Apartheid government effectively crippled its own work force by preventing them from becoming more highly skilled and by restricting their ability to access the law. Thankfully in the years that followed the end of Apartheid better legislation was developed to ensure that the workplace would not remain a whites’ only space.
Despite the need for such a change the policy of Affirmative Action in the South African workplace has been poorly implemented and regulated and has often caused further divisions within the workplace. This has occurred for several reasons. When the policy was first put in place many people were removed from their jobs and replaced by individuals who did not have the necessary skills and were not actually capacitated to do the job well. Thus, the Affirmative Action candidates were not respected because they were seen as filling a quota rather than deserving of the position. Employment equity was technically achieved, but it did not result in equality.
Some people have described Affirmative Action as reverse discrimination which has done little good. It is certainly a policy that indicates that equality cannot simply be achieved by writing people’s rights into law. In order for the labour field to be equal and in order to have a situation of employment equity, there is a dire need to skill the workforce. There is a need for negotiation around the duration of this policy to ensure that this description cannot be accepted. Better education is required in order to get more support for Affirmative Action in the South African workplace.