Employment not so equitable
The retail, fishing and mining sectors in Namibia have been fingered as the main culprits in non-compliance with the Affirmative Action Act.In the midst of concluding his 2011/2012 annual report that will soon go before the Employment Equity Commission (EEC) and Cabinet, Commissioner Vilbard Uusiku has labelled key employment creating sectors as the most suspicious in affirmative action and subsequently job creation. Numerous Government ministries, parastatals and local authorities have also been described as failing the employment beneficiation exercise after the EEC took them to court for failing to submit their affirmative action reports on time. But his report is expected to appreciate the positive reforms within the financial (banking) sector which he says has shown the most progress in redressing the imbalances within the local workforce.The Affirmative Action (Employment) Act 29 of 1998 seeks to redress the imbalances at the workplace in view of the inequitable job distribution legacy that the Namibian Government inherited from the discriminatory socio economic dispensation which had previously existed in the country under colonial rule. “In 1998 a UNDP report had it that 10% of the country population earns 65% of the total income in the economy leaving 90% to vie for a share in the remaining 35%. Although, the promulgation of the Act was meant to encourage employers to give preferential appointments for formerly disadvantaged people who are designated by the Act for managerial or supervisory jobs provided that they qualify for the positions, Namibia is still in an Irish-coffee concentration where the white remains at the top while the black, brown remains at the bottom. Whites still occupy better positions, and they are the minority,” Uusiku told The Villager this week. He said the mining sector has long hidden behind the fallacy that the industry cannot employ locals in top management positions as the sector is a specialised field and needs seasoned experts not Unam graduates. “I do not understand why the retail industry’s executives still remain occupied by foreigners, or whites. How possible is it that somebody can train another person on how to run a shop for more than 20 years?” he enquires. Uusiku maintains that the omission of previously disadvantaged Namibians in managerial positions in these companies is built on the notion that black people are lazy, have a shoddy workmanship and they lack the necessary ingenuity. The EEC should be one of the graft fighters in the country where 51% of the population is unemployed and Uusiku says his next report will dwell on the commission’s failure to manage operate meaningfully. “With such a huge task, the EEC only has 12 employees and Namibia has many commissions who are created to ensure implementation of policies. If they are serious inequities in employment and we are this short-staffed, room of being influential,” he says. According to the current results, commercial banks have complied and are now 90% black or Namibian-run and this helps open up jobs for locals in senior positions, but the mining sector continues to be a male dominated sector at all levels of employment. In 2010, the sector reported a total of 6960 employees, an increase of 10.4% compared to previous year and although 87, 5% of the total workforce was black, they only comprised 43, 4% of staff at management level while whites held 31.4% of all management positions, a slight decrease from the 36% they held the year before. Executive Directors in the industry are mostly men while women account for only 16% of overall employment and 17, 3% at management level. Persons with disabilities comprise a meagre 0.3% in the mining industry.The Affirmative Action Act, according to Uusiku, requires all relevant employers, employing 25 or more employees to develop and implement affirmative action plans in order to achieve a fair and representative workforce. It has been lack of its action that has seen many university graduates add to the unemployment statistics. “This year, non-compliance from these sectors is higher. We are talking about top executive positions, not smaller jobs,” he said adding that the mining sectors have often protested about lack of engineers in the country.Ironically, Uusiku’s daughter, a geologist graduate, has also been jobless. “There has been mushrooming of mining companies this year because of this uranium rush but only a handful like Areva and Lang-Heinrich have submitted their reports. The rest have not submitted their reports. They are breaking the law and the (employment equity) situation has even worsened from the 2010 figures,” he said.Last year, the wholesale and retail sector reported that black Namibians held 36% of 15 826, a decline of 6.4% compared to the previous year. Overall, persons from designated groups account for 94, 3% of all employees, with women comprising 48, 2% and persons with disabilities 0,4%. But white men accounted for 41.5% of all management positions compared to 37, 2% in the previous year.He said graduates from the Namibia Marine Training Institute are being ignored by the fishing community which is largely Hispanic and prefer their own. Added Uusiku, “If whites made up 90% of the country’s population, it would be OK to take up 90% of management positions, not when they make less than 5%, because although I do not handle creation of jobs, my mandate is mainly an HR one, but still, I should help provide guidelines to the status of unemployment in the country by seeking adherence to the Affirmative Action Act,” he says. Failure by any employer to comply with the provisions of the Act is a criminal offence and so far charges have been laid for lack of compliance against close to 200 companies. The charges are laid by the Namibian Police special attaché to the EEC, Detective Warrant Officer, CS Theunissen who was assigned by NamPol Inspector General to handle cases related to the EEC. From 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011, 40 companies have paid admission of guilt fines for either late submission of Affirmative Action reports or non-compliance.The minimum fines for conviction to the institutions are either N$1000 or six months imprisonment and the highest fine that was paid out was by the Ondangwa Town Council which paid a fine of N$10 000 for non submission of their reports for the years 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 as well as 2006. Convicted Government ministries include, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health and Social Services, Ministry of Gender and Child Welfare, Office of the Auditor General as well as the National Planning Commission, all guilty of providing statistics that may not only abet unemployment, but provide easier solutions to it.