Equitable employment integral to Steve Biko Foundation

Anthony Kambi Masha’s letter of January 30th refers. In it Masha accuses the Steve Biko Foundation (SBF) of depriving applicants without internet access employment opportunities because the advertisements he refers to request e-mailed submissions.

The first flaw in Masha’s argument is assuming that hiring can ever be absolutely fair. While desirable, this is impossible. When an institution looks for particular qualifications and years of experience; places adverts in one medium over another; and the position is in one area and not another; it has chosen a complex set of parameters, which will affect some people’s chances over others. Realistically the best that can be achieved is substantial fairness rather than absolute fairness.

It is also simplistic to assume that a fax number and post box would have ensured absolute fairness. The Post Office’s 2010 annual report enumerates 1 539 postal branches and 927 agencies to serve all of South Africa. So the majority of the communities Masha is concerned about are as challenged to access a post office or fax as they are the internet.

Masha will have seen that SBF’s adverts are for employment at the Steve Biko Centre, currently under construction. SBF has taken great care to achieve substantial fairness in its hiring practices. In partnership with the community, SBF established a consultation forum to encourage anyone who desires to work to register on a database from which candidates would be drawn during construction and operational phases. The contractor was required to source employees from here first and then, beyond if such skills are not within the database.

A total of 1 122 candidates registered, many assisted in the process by SBF’s own human resources and infrastructure. According to the project’s latest social impact report, generated by an independent party, 604 people have been employed during construction. Of that number 76% are from BCM and 78% are from the Eastern Cape. All in all 97% are previously disadvantaged individuals, what Masha refers to as “ordinary” people. Further, the initiative will provide 89 permanent positions. Indirectly there are opportunities in the area of homestays, transportation, tour guides, etc.

The adverts referenced by Masha are part of this broad empowerment initiative. They are explicit on several requirements including e-mailed submissions; however, they do not prohibit other methods. Where this is the case, companies usually make it an unequivocal condition. In fact, a number of candidates have faxed or dropped off their responses at SBF.

SBF’s history demonstrates a commitment to empowerment in ways that can be empirically substantiated. Our documents in this regard remain open to Masha should he wish to undertake an objective appraisal. If Masha’s intention was to engage SBF he should rest assured that we are willing to participate in a discourse on job provision of a general nature or of a nature specific to SBF’s practices.

S. Dibuseng Kolisang
Communications Officer
The Steve Biko Foundation

This letter was first published in the Daily Dispatch on February 3rd, 2012.

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