By Angela Qunital and Sapa
The Democratic Alliance has asked the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to make Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana publicly withdraw a remark that affirmative action would never be stopped in South Africa, but intensified.
Mdladlana is currently chairperson of the ILO.
"His weekend remarks that affirmative action will never be scrapped is racist and destructive to our economy. It is also in conflict with the rules of the International Labour Organisation," DA labour spokesperson Mark Lowe said on Monday.
ILO convention 111 approved affirmative action only as a temporary corrective measure, and ruled out broader employment practices that discriminated on the basis of race, he said.
Speaking in Pretoria on Saturday, Mdladlana said: "Affirmative action and current employment equity legislation will never be repealed, but intensified instead".
Lowe said Mdladlana's statement was clearly in contravention of the ILO convention. "I will send a letter to ILO director-general Juan Somavia requesting that he be asked to publicly withdraw his callous remark and provide an assurance to the ILO that South Africa will comply with all its conventions, failing which Minister Mdladlana should be sanctioned," he said.
Cosatu on Monday threw its weight behind Mdladlana's view on affirmative action.
Cosatu said it agreed with Mdladlana. "The Employment Equity Act has not been effectively enforced. As a result employment still reveals the predominance of white and males in senior positions.
"Our members regularly report examples of racism in the workplace, with white workers getting better wages and faster promotion," said Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven.
The minister was correct to demand that "liberation should be accompanied by programmes to totally eradicate the apartheid legacy", he said.
Cosatu would do everything possible to assist the government to achieve this. It condemned the DA's decision to report the minister to the International Labour Organisation . "We call upon the ILO to reject this."
FF Plus MP Willie Spies said Mdladlana had reaffirmed his reputation "as one of the ANC's most hardened racists, but also displayed his disregard for international labour law principles".
Spies said international labour literature was clear that affirmative action is a form of discrimination which can only apply temporarily. "Policies similar to Mdladlana's had destroyed Mugabe's former reputation as liberation hero," he said.
This article was originally published on page 2 of Pretoria News on March 06, 2007