South Africa struggles with issues of affirmative action because it is emerging from a hundred years or so of bigotry which prevented black skinned people from succeeding in universities and other key positions in society. The Trade Union Solidarity has taken the police to court over failure to promote Captain Renate Bernard who twice performed at the highest level and twice was denied promotion even though the position was never filled. Dirk Hermann of Solidarity argues, “the case will test whether affirmative action and representivity could be more important than service delivery.”
An effective affirmative action program has to focus on two facets: ensuring quality performance and ensuring there is a plan to equalize opportunities for those who have been denied in the past. Most affirmative action programs operate on the principle that a pie only has so many pieces. Perhaps, one could look at the concept of baking a larger pie. Captain Bernard could have been promoted and one or two of black skinned forensic candidates could have been hired to work with Bernard in order to improve their skills.
In the real work, there are many who qualify for most positions. A forensic position requires a specialist. Captain Bernard could have performed the position even while educating others to gain a similar expertise. Think big, not small.