By Pinky Khoabane
While his fellow Black workers face abysmal working conditions, the Affirmative Action appointee mixes with the apartheid-era bosses, is the darker shade in a sea of white oppressors in the boardroom and represents transformation in the New South Africa…later he mingles with his fellow Blacks to cleanse his soul and betrayal with financial help which doesn’t change the material conditions of his “beneficiaries”.
It is about cleansing his soul, his conscience and he has it all worked out. He will dish out a loan to a Black colleague and phone Black friends for validation of his generosity.
For many like me, they are the perpetual irritant. They are complicit in the continued oppression and exploitation of fellow Black workers. They are forever trying to cleanse their conscience for doing nothing and turning a blind eye on the working conditions of their colleagues for fear of losing their fat pay cheques. Instead of challenging the status quo, they spend their time relating the gross injustices at their workplaces and how they are the saviours.
We all have a friend who’s like this – the black brother bought by white monopoly capitalists to maintain the status quo. They used to be called tokens but we’ve gone past that term now. They hold executive titles and very little else…
“I was so sad today,” the conversation always starts like this. “You know, Gladys, the receptionist came to ask me to lend her R100. I mean she earns only R3500 per month and when you look at her transport from Soweto to here, it breaks my heart.”
He will then go onto give you a breakdown of Gladys’s expenses. “She has two children who attend school here in town. Oh, it breaks my heart!”
He will rattle off Gladys’s expenditure as if it were his. He’s so deep in the world of debt that he doesn’t know his expenses at all and yet he does Gladys’s. With a giggle he will let you know that he gave Gladys the money and doesn’t expect it back. He does this for just about every Black person in his office.
And each week, there will be his usual “heartbreaking story” to which he contributed R100 or so.
The names of his “beneficiaries” change but the story is the same.
It is the story of a black face and name with political connections that can open doors and extend in many cases, the sunset contracts of 40years or more held by the company that employed him. He holds a title of executive that includes Human Resources. Few positions for Blacks in the Rainbow Nation beat Human Resources, Corporate Communications and Social Responsibility. In fact, you need not have any qualifications for these jobs – in the New South Africa, Blacks with their skin colour and surnames make the grade for these jobs.
These are Blacks who represent the transformation brought about by the negotiated settlement we have today. They fear doing the job for which they were supposedly employed to do….to engineer a new environment in the workplace where Gladys can have a living wage instead of waiting for the crumbs from the AA appointee when he can get cash from the bank.
As we speak about radical economic transformation, the key question is what to do with this person – who is too fearful to take our country forward and address inequalities of the past, because he hangs onto his 4×4 and luxury home in the suburbs.