Commissioner of the Employment Equity Commission Wilbard Usiku has raised alarm over non-compliance to affirmative action by the mining, retail and banking sectors adding that they are also equally worried with the lenience shown by the courts when dealing with offenders.
Some of the companies that have been fingered for not employing previously disadvantaged people at Executive Director Positions are Ohlthaver & List, First National Bank Namibia, EBH and many other mining companies.
A rather upbeat Usiku told The Villager that there is a worrying trend from the banking and non-banking financial sector who have taken a deliberate ploy to side-line locals from the previously disadvantaged backgrounds from senior and influential management positions.
His complain also tally with recent revelations by the Minister of Finance Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila that the country needs to create legislation that pushes vital sectors to engage local skills in more senior positions.
Usiku argued that the affirmative action drive has not failed but will take some time before the mindset of the employers is changed.
Usiku told The Villager in an interview that the financial sector in Namibia has shown unreasonable resilience in employing the previously disadvantaged in senior positions without giving any explanation.
“We made reasonable progress as a country when it comes to implementing affirmative action but the most troublesome sectors are the mining, retail and financial sector. I have not gotten any reasonable explanation why the financial sector cannot accommodate the previously disadvantaged. The reality is that their mindset is not willing to change and does not seem to be changing anytime soon. The mining sector we have engaged and their reasoning is that there are no skills in the country to occupy their senior managerial positions,” he said.
The latest report by the EEC also show that last year when their report was published the mining sector did not have any previously disadvantaged representative at Executive Director Level. It also shows that there were only six males and one female from the previously disadvantaged in the senior management level of the mining sector
Even more worrisome for Usiku is that the country does not have a law that makes a demarcation on whether a company should employ a certain number of white people or black people in more influential positions.
“We have engaged with all sectors and wide investigations have been done but the reality is that we will get somewhere. There is no clear cut rules that say a company should have a certain number of white directors and bland number of managers but the challenge is that the court seems to be more inclined to give the people a lighter sentence. This is not something that we question because the judiciary takes its course and determines its penalties there is not much we can do there.
While emphasising the importance of a more robust approach in implementing the affirmative action law he said the companies are suppose to find a way that they will use to improve the participation of previously disadvantaged in management positions.
Usiku also revealed that the management of M&Z was last week called to discuss their continued discrimination of black employees.
“As part of our aim to ensure compliance I can also tell you that last week we called in the top manager of M&Z. They have in the past been castigated for ill-treating of black employees.
There also investigations by the Villager that shows that most Commercial banks in the country have an abundance of top managers from Financial Director Chief Executive Officer and Operations Directors who are white. The same has also been established in top retail and multifaceted companies (names withheld) that have all their managing directors as white people of Germany descent. Usiku concurred that some big companies are playing black skin white mask when it comes to their recruitment. Ironically there don’t seem to be much that the EEC can do to avert the situation.
Toothless bull dog
Usiku however quelled notions that his organisation is a toothless bull dog saying the country needs to be patient.
“We have done pretty much everything that we need to do and this is continuing. We will not stop, however for someone to make such blanket statements that we are not doing anything it raises eye brows because we have well documented evidence showing who we have nabbed and what needs to be done going foward.
Meanwhile Trade Unionist Evaristus Kaaronda argued that the concept of affirmative action has not achieved the desired results in the Namibian business set up. According to Kaaronda there is need for the industry players to take a holistic approach in dealing with companies that fail to abide by the principles of affirmative action.
Kaaronda who has also in the past taken a shot at the EEC for failing to be competent enough in curbing the poor treatment of previously disadvantaged personnel in most companies believe the country needs to deal with the issue of noncompliance by companies with a head on approach.