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Restitution in the Workplace

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					Restitution in the workplace
                                The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was a brave effort to
                                address mass injustices and provided the platform for reconciliation
                                at a national level. Architects of the TRC set such high standards that
                                the model has been adopted by other countries, like the US, Kenya,
                                Liberia, etc., that have undergone gross human rights violations.
                                However, a major limitation of the TRC was that it provided the
                                platform for reconciliation without restitution. Of course, restitution
                                was not part of the mandate of the TRC; however the need for
                                restitution still had no substitute. In a scenario of a stolen car, the
victim has the right to argue, “Why just say you are sorry when you still have not returned my car?”
Restitution therefore answers the question of returning the car.

Is BEE restitution?

The ANC led government has initiated other means of restitution such as the Black Economic
Empowerment (BEE). According to the BEE Verification Agency CC, “Broad-Based BEE is the
economic empowerment of all black people through diverse but integrated socio-economic
strategies. BEE is more than a way to address past inequalities, it is a tool to broaden the country’s
economic growth and accelerate growth, job creation and poverty eradication.”

Moeletsi Mbeki, brother of form President Thabo Mbeki, makes a very interesting assessment of the
situation reflecting on BEE in his book Architects of Poverty. He insists that BEE is focused on fighting
for the very same “piece of pie” that whites had instead of creating more “pies” that can feed the
rest of the country. In this sense, government should concentrate more on developing new
enterprises in SA and focus on helping
South Africans black or white who have However the broader question though is, “should it be the
new ideas that will create jobs. However initiative of the “black-dominated” ANC government to initiate
                                               restitution in the first place? Where is the white community
the broader question though is, “should
                                               both individually and corporately who benefited during
it be the initiative of the “black- apartheid but now are responsible enough to engage in
dominated” ANC government to initiate restitution?
restitution in the first place? Where is the white community both individually and corporately who
benefited during apartheid but now are responsible enough to engage in restitution?

The understanding behind such BEE initiatives is that the previously disadvantaged “black people”
have been kept at the starting mark of the economic race while “whites” have had the head start
monopoly historically through inhumane means. Therefore, the attempt to level the playing fields
requires that “blacks” be given deliberate advantage and preference before their “white” fellow
citizens. I will attempt not to discuss the implications of such an undertaking; however my interest
lies more on two major related issues.

Who should talk of restitution?

The first issue is who should talk of restitution? Restitution by definition can have a legal aspect to it
being that a legal or court order can be issued for the restoration of stolen goods or property

www.goldlegacy.blogspot.com                                            Restitution in the Workplace      1
(Merriam Webster Dictionary). In this sense, the first party that can speak of restitution is the
mediator (if there is any, assuming they stand neutral) or the law itself should the offender not see
the need for restitution voluntarily. The ideal outcome of restitution then is restoration. When the
court or the offender recognises that the victim should have been at a better standard had it not
been for the crime committed, then restitution does become meaningful and possibly can bear with
it true reconciliation. The reason this is important is because, in this sense, restitution begins with
recognising the humanity of the other and unless this occurs then true reconciliation is difficult to
achieve. The ideal situation even reflecting on the Biblical paradigm is that the offender initiates
restitution even without any legal obligation. This then means the offender has identified the error
of their crime and is genuine enough to address the backlog by restoring that which was stolen.

Death by Greed

The second issue then is why should we be speaking of restitution in the workplace and how does
that benefit the victims? South Africa still stands at the top as one of the world’s most unequal
                                                                                     societies. The Bureau of
  About 20.8 % are in the R50 000-R300 000 (or emerging middle class) income         Market Research in 2010
  groups, leaving about 75.4 % of adults earning less than R50 000 pa. This is to be released     its   report
  considered within the context of previously disadvantaged workers whose
                                                                                     "Personal        Income
  predecessors had no stocked up assets or upmarket properties to ensure social and
  financial capital.                                                                 Patterns and Profiles for
                                                                                     South Africa 2009",
which shows that 3.8 % of the adult population earns 39.4 % of total personal income, evidence that
South Africa has a very skew income distribution. It is no enigma that the black majority stands on
the unfortunate end of this inequality bar.

About 20.8 % are in the R50 000-R300 000 (or emerging middle class) income groups, leaving about
75.4 % of adults earning less than R50 000 pa. This is to be considered within the context of
previously disadvantaged workers whose predecessors had no stocked up assets or upmarket
properties to ensure social and financial capital. Take for example, a students from the shacks of
Gugulethu who finishes university with a student loan and now enters the job market however
earning R50 000 pa. What does restitution look like for her? Her starting point is obviously far
behind then that of the average previously advantaged individual of the same age though the
playing fields seem to be levelled. In reality, the playing fields are not levelled! This individual is
basically starting from scratch to build a non-existent financial capital (including payment of the
loan) and will probably take longer to gain momentum to do so considering social responsibilities.
Though this might sound like a probability case study, to many South Africans it is a reality.

Would restitution in this case not consider deliberate salary adjustment in favour of the cleaner,
junior or intern instead of the executive director’s bonus or increase? 17 years into our democracy,
reality still remains that the white minority still owns the majority of national wealth including more
the 80% of arable land.

A breakdown of our wealth gap figures just released by Statistics South Africa is instructive. It shows
that our richest 10% are getting richer, especially the CEOs who are averaging an obscene R5,3-
million a year, and so, too, are the poorest 20% who benefit from social grants. Manuel revealed at



www.goldlegacy.blogspot.com                                              Restitution in the Workplace       2
his discussion session that 258,000 of the 362,000 jobs lost in the recession have been in the
informal sector – the vast majority young people.

These young people fall between the cracks. They are too old to qualify for the child grant and too
young for the old-age grant. Their only hope of being able to claw their way into the economy is
through part-time work. But Cosatu wants to stop that. (Business Day)

Though black ownership of JSE listed companies has seen a gradual growth the poor and middle
class are still in no better standings. If we are to look at Moeletsi’s analogy of the pie then we can
merely say that the greatest shift in wealth redistribution has in fact occurred within the bracket of
the elites both black and white however still leaving the majority of black South Africans not much
better off. It is the lower category of the labour force that has not experienced much financial
transformation. Though genocide in South Africa was not through the barrel of a gun, it was death
by       greed.        Therefore, Though genocide in South Africa was not through the barrel of a gun, it was
restoration, reconciliation, and death by greed. Therefore, restoration, reconciliation, and restitution have to
restitution have to address the address the economic situation of black South Africans who suffered greatly
economic situation of black through the blockade on financial opportunities.
South Africans who suffered greatly through the blockade on financial opportunities. Leave out the
labour organisations, restitution for the Gugulethu girl is a heart issue that sees her as a human
being whose net profit is not substantial enough to give her a fair financial foundation due to past
injustices.

Tipping the scales of salary adjustment in the workplace can help towards this end. Current BEE
initiatives still benefit the higher management of companies that participate however still leaving
the lower bracket stagnant. The ANC cannot enforce restitution, because it has to be a voluntary
initiative by those who benefited through apartheid.

Conclusion

In conclusion, restitution in the work place is an art of the brave. Brave enough to face up to past
injustices. Brave enough to own up and make amends. Brave enough to go beyond the status quo of
relevant job description salaries for those companies who take it to heart. According to the
Restitution Foundation, restitution is about building or rebuilding people’s lives without necessarily
giving a hand out. Unlike BEE, restitution has to be initiated by white citizens who employ blacks
with a heart that goes beyond entitlement, pity or charity. The question of restitution in the
workplace has to be answered by those who inherited the apartheid benefits in order to change the
life story of such as the young university graduate who otherwise would have to work double the
number of years to achieve half of what her white contemporaries merely inherited.




www.goldlegacy.blogspot.com                                               Restitution in the Workplace        3

				
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