Foreign Affairs

Conservative Spotlight: Solidarity Fights Affirmative Action in South Africa

Solidarity came to America to inform, but also to learn. Solidarity is a South African trade union that is conducting an international study project on affirmative action in South Africa. Its members want to see how affirmative action is handled in the United States, and to educate organizations in America about South Africa’s growing problem.

Flip Buys, general secretary of Solidarity, told HUMAN EVENTS, "Our visit to the U.S., from February 6 to February 17, was a tremendous success and we look forward to working with you in the future, with a view to finding solutions to the problems facing South Africa."

Solidarity is one of the largest trade unions in the manufacturing sector of South Africa. It holds a tradition of conservative Christian principles and believes strongly in the free market. Affirmative action in South Africa is different from that in the United States, in that here it is supposed to benefit minorities. In South Africa, it is intended to benefit the majority.

Solidarity’s organizers say the problem is that the majority of people in South Africa are left with unfulfilled expectations, while the minority is left feeling alienated. The four major groups of people who live in South Africa are Africans, who make up 80% of the population, Indians, coloreds, and whites, the minority, who make up 9% of the population.

"Solidarity, as South Africa’s largest independent trade union, has grave misgivings about a number of policy directions taken by the country’s government, since some of these may not only harm the economy, but may also cause tension between different population groups," said Buys.

The current race-based affirmative action program is promoting racial conflict and fails to uplift poor blacks and whites. It has rigid employment quotas, and black South Africans have gained little job training, education, or economic prosperity since affirmative action became law.

Solidarity has come to the United States because "no other country in the world has conducted more research into affirmative action," said Buys. They want to bring media attention to this issue, as well as met with think tanks, leaders and activists to educate and also to learn.

"The United States of America has, on several occasions, expressed its involvement with Africa. The fact that South Africa regularly emerges as an African leader requires that the country should be a stable one that can act as a role model for other countries on the continent. The U.S. and American institutions can play a role in establishing this," said Buys.

Solidarity believes those disadvantaged by affirmative action could be assisted by economic growth, a focus on training, specifically education, and by taking the focus away from race and looking instead at social levels of society.

More information can be obtained at solidarity.co.za.

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