March against S.Africa ‘race quotas’ draws 1,000 in Cape Town

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More than 1,000 supporters of South Africa’s leading opposition party took to the streets in Cape Town on Wednesday to protest a controversial law aimed at increasing the employment of black people.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) party and some businesses in the country say the so-called “race quotas” legislation could see qualified workers lose their jobs — a charge the government denies.

“You’re going to see companies that would ordinarily look at expanding, narrowing and keeping their workforce down,” DA leader John Steenhuisen told AFP on the sidelines of the protest, adding the bill would cause “incredible harm to the economy”..

The government has said the legislation, supported by the ruling African National Congress (ANC), is not going to result in job losses and only seeks to promote diversity in what the World Bank says is the world’s most unequal country.

Holding signs reading “Jobs for all” and “ANC wants your job” the protesters, some waving South African flags, marched across the port city towards the national parliament.

“I am an African but I don’t like what the ANC is doing,” said Ndumiso Tsile, 41, a mechanical engineer donning a bright blue T-shirt, the color of the DA.

The ruling party was implementing discriminatory laws reminiscent of the apartheid era, he added.

The new bill requires companies with more than 50 employees to submit equity plans reflecting the demography of the region they operate in and set out how they intend to achieve them.

It also allows for the labour minister to set numerical targets for specific economic sectors and is expected to come into operation in the coming months.

Almost one in two black South Africans were unemployed in the first three months of 2023, while the jobless rate was only 9.5 percent among white people, according to official figures.

“No one is denying we have imbalances, but you don’t fix the evils of race-based policies by layering over more race-based policies,” said Steenhuisen, 47, adding the law would also badly affect people of Indian and mixed-race descent.

Steenhuisen used the protest as a campaign platform, urging supporters to vote for his party in national elections next year.

Polls suggest the ruling African National Congress, in power since the end of white rule in 1994, risks seeing its share of the vote drop below 50 percent.

The DA, which has traditionally appealed to a largely white electorate, is the dominant party in Cape Town’s Western Cape province.

©️ Agence France-Presse

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